Brace Yourself for a Rough Hurricane Season

The expected transition from an El Niño to a La Niña weather pattern sets up a potentially horrible Atlantic hurricane season. 

hurricane weather trees

Just as homeowners insurance premiums in the U.S. seem to be catching up with soaring claims, early signs are emerging that the hurricane season in the Atlantic may range between awful and truly horrific.

The El Niño and La Niña weather patterns typically create countervailing effects on the severity of a hurricane season. El Niño raises temperatures across the U.S., meaning there's more energy in Atlantic waters that can turn into severe hurricanes, but the weather pattern also causes wind shear that can break up storms as they start to form. La Niña cools temperatures, but it also reduces the wind shear, letting more storms form.

This season is thus far looking like the worst of both worlds. 

We are currently in an El Niño pattern that has temperatures in the Atlantic at levels usually not seen until July, and they will only get worse. Last year, the heat from El Niño alone was enough to turn what was expected to be a below-average season into one that was about 20% worse than normal. 

And El Niño is expected to give way to La Niña by late summer or early fall, reducing wind shear and making it more likely that heat-driven winds can turn into major storms.

Weather predictions are always uncertain, especially this far ahead, and no one is even trying to guess how many hurricanes will make landfall or how destructive they'll be, but as a former ocean sailor, I suggest we get ready to batten down the hatches.

The Washington Post quoted one meteorologist as saying: “Basically, it is the perfect recipe for hurricanes to form and strengthen.”

Another told the Post: “There’s plenty of time ahead before we get to the meatiest part of the hurricane season. But a lot’s going to have to change … for forecasters to feel much more comfortable going into hurricane season.”

The dire forecast comes as the homeowners insurance industry was finally getting some good news. After posting underwriting losses for six of the past seven years, insurers in the U.S. homeowners market were expected to see profitability improve in 2024 because of rising rates and stricter underwriting, according to Fitch Ratings.

But how much can the home insurance sector's combined ratio come down 2023, when the Triple-I estimates it was 112.3, the worst since 2011?

A lot will depend on catastrophe losses, so all eyes will be on the Atlantic hurricane season.

Here's hoping something changes the current trajectory.