Fine Weather for Insurers

Meterologists at Colorado State University expect the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season to be an unusually active one.

If that sounds familiar, it should. The team made a similar forecast for the 2007 season, just as they had in 2006. But both of those dire predictions turned out to be high of the mark — 2006 and 2007 turned out to be relatively quiet, and the U.S. was spared landfall by a major hurricane for two years in a row.

Still, insurers should be crossing their fingers that C.S.U.’s prediction will hold true. Lloyd’s of London earlier this month warned that the lack of natural disasters over the last two years has put pressure on insurance firms to cut their premiums, which could shrink their recent record profits.

Another calm hurricane season could also be a blow to proponents of the theory that climate change is fueling ever more powerful hurricanes.


"This has nothing to do with frequency, which undoubtedly involves many more variables than the simple physics of vaporization and condensation."

But each year there are quite a depressions that do not turn into tropical storms, and tropical storms that do not turn into hurricanes. If the amount of energy available to these depressions and storms goes up, then it is likely that more of them will become hurricanes than would have otherwise. Therefore, an increase in the intensity of storms will raise more storms above the threshhold needed to class them as hurricanes, resulting in a higher frequency of hurricanes.


#3 and #5. You guys almost agree. Which one of you is right?


The NC shore is way over built--the Outer Banks are swimming in empty condos. Taxes are driving out the old timers. Gas prices are keeping those of us within day-trip range away. And we still have drought. Bring on the will shake up the economy around here.


Forcast calm and you are setting youself up for an inquisition, forcast mayhem and no one cares if you're wrong.

Or maybe the ever changing system makes your model wrong. Why bother?

Gary W.

I believe this is a common point of confusion - number of hurricanes vs. more powerful hurricanes. Hurricanes get their power from the "latent heat of vaporization," the amount of heat that water releases when it returns to a liquid state from a gaseous state. (It's the energy required to move it to a gaseous state in the first place.) Warmer water means more water evaporated and taken up into weather systems, which means more energy, which means more power. This has nothing to do with frequency, which undoubtedly involves many more variables than the simple physics of vaporization and condensation.

Simple proof? Hurricanes lose power over land. Those who make their living casting doubt on global warming surely love to see this mistake - frequency vs. power - being made and just as surely love to encourage it.


It's too bad meteorologists are only accurate about 2 days out.

Also, if a warmer planet means more hurricanes than the recent past, then this year should call for a less active season, since surface temperatures dropped in 2007 and are expected to be low again this year, due to La Nina.

Joe D

The CSU March/April prediction has pretty low correlation (their own statement says previous years' predictions have "not shown forecast skill" over simple climatology). The June prediction is much better.

I refer you to Dr. Jeff Masters' blog.

Down here in Florida, we're just hoping the inscos start writing policies again. Lower premiums would be the icing on the cake; even though the state created a reinsurance pool with lower premiums as the goal, they still went up.

Nikhil Punnoose

The global warming effect on hurricanes isn't really very confusing, if you understand the function of hurricanes- which is to act as the planet's cooling system. A hurricane is an immensely powerful heat engine that spews trillions of watts of heat from the oceans to outer space. If the planet gets warmer, they'll need to give out more, which will lead to an increase in the size/number of hurricanes. Pretty simple, really...

Mike S.

People who don't know the second law of thermodynamics, think that more heat means more heat energy.

The truth is that heat engines get their energy from temperature differences (that's why cold fronts are so often violent).

Google it!