I work for a company in the risk assessment business. There are elements of our business who take more than a casual interest in the weather, as it can mean billions of dollars in claims and millions of dollars in capital that has to be set aside as reserves. One of our industry publications had this report today:
The climate phenomenon El Nino made an unexpected return this year, and its influence on world weather patterns could have an impact on the property/casualty insurance industry — including fewer hurricanes for the rest of the 2006 season.
El Nino is a large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. Steve Smith, an atmospheric physicist and senior vice president of Carvill’s ReAdvisory, said “a weak El Nino” formed about a month ago and appears to be affecting hurricane formation.
“I wouldn’t expect too many hurricanes for the rest of the season,” Smith said.
The Colorado State University-based Tropical Meteorology Project was even more blunt, lowering its tropical storm forecast to below-average activity for the rest of the season and predicting no tropical cyclone activity in November, “largely due to the rapid emergence of an El Nino event during the latter part of this summer.” Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.
“A hurricane is kind of like a heat engine in the atmosphere,” said Peter Dailey, lead meteorologist for catastrophe modeler AIR Worldwide Corp. “It can be disrupted by mixing the atmosphere. When we have an El Nino event, it tends to increase the wind shear in the Caribbean.”
So far, there have been nine named storms this season, and not one hurricane has made U.S. landfall.
Robert Hartwig, senior vice president and chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute, said El Nino’s influence on hurricane formation is “a beneficial impact.”
Ahhh, warming water means fewer hurricanes and, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the typical El Nino effect on global weather means warmer than average winter weather in western and central Canada, which translates to a warmer than average winter for western and central U.S. — including our own Minnesota. Maybe I didn’t need to buy my wife the new pair of flannel lined jeans and microfleece long underwear at Cabelas for her birthday after all. Maybe I can negotiate a lower fee upfront with the guy who plows my driveway.
Of course, El Nino weather patterns also usually mean more storm activity in California and more nor’easters in the northeast. Oh, those poor blue states. I bet Karl Rove had something to do with this.