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Business News/ Science / 2023 Hurricane Season Predicted to Be Below Average After a Costly 2022
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2023 Hurricane Season Predicted to Be Below Average After a Costly 2022

wsj

Scientists expect slightly fewer Atlantic hurricanes than usual, though forecast comes with ‘larger-than-normal uncertainty’

File photo of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island in, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (AP)Premium
File photo of Hurricane Ian on Pine Island in, Oct. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (AP)

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season will likely bring fewer storms than average, scientists said—offering a potential respite for coastal locales after a costly 2022—though they cautioned the forecast is less certain than usual because it is complicated by El Niño.

Researchers at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science anticipate 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes in 2023, according to a forecast released Thursday. A typical hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, results in 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Last year there were 14 named storms and eight hurricanes, including Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida, among other places, and caused $112.9 billion in damage, according to the federal government’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Ian was the third costliest storm on record, after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

The forecast for 2023 comes with “larger-than-normal uncertainty" because of evolving atmospheric conditions, said research scientist Phil Klotzbach, who led the team that produced the CSU report.

Dr. Klotzbach, who also serves as a nonresident scholar at the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group that publicized the research, said the forecast is based in part on expected conditions related to El Niño, a warm and frequently wet weather system that is associated with stronger-than-normal winds in the upper atmosphere. Those winds can tear apart a developing hurricane, he said.

If a robust El Niño doesn’t develop, though, the hurricane season could be busy, he said.

Many businesses and households lack insurance that covers hurricane losses. Only about $55 billion, or roughly half, of the damage caused by Hurricane Ian was covered by insurance, according to an estimate from reinsurance firm Gallagher Re. The hurricane, which struck Florida in September, represented nearly a third of worldwide natural-catastrophe damages for 2022, Gallagher’s analysis showed.

Because of climate change, storms generally are wetter than in the past, said Kelly Hereid, director of catastrophe research and development at insurer Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. Liberty Mutual provided some funding for CSU’s report through a subsidiary.

Warming weather has led to more intense rainfall, and higher sea levels mean floods are more likely, Dr. Hereid said.

Businesses should review their insurance policies to make sure they know what is being covered, she said. They can also take simple proactive steps to try to mitigate hurricane damage, like clearing drains and caulking windows.

Dr. Hereid also warned that even a relatively inactive hurricane season can produce damaging storms. The year 1992 had almost no activity for months, until the deadly category five Hurricane Andrew hit the Bahamas, Louisiana and Florida, where it leveled entire blocks.

“Any season is quiet until you happen to have a hurricane that lands over your house or property," she said.

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