NOAA Predicts a Near-Normal 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season
NOAA forecasters with the Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, predict near-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year. NOAA’s outlook for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which goes from June 1 to November 30, predicts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season.
NOAA is forecasting a range of 12 to 17 total named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA has a 70% confidence in these ranges.
“Thanks to the Commerce Department and NOAA’s critical investments this year in scientific and technological advancements in hurricane modeling, NOAA will be able to deliver even more accurate forecasts, helping ensure communities have the information they need to prepare for and respond to the destructive economic and ecological impacts of Atlantic hurricanes,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.
The upcoming Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be less active than recent years, due to competing factors — some that suppress storm development and some that fuel it — driving this year's overall forecast for a near-normal season.
After three hurricane seasons with La Nina present, NOAA scientists predict a high potential for El Nino to develop this summer, which can suppress Atlantic hurricane activity. El Nino’s potential influence on storm development could be offset by favorable conditions local to the tropical Atlantic Basin. Those conditions include the potential for an above-normal west African monsoon, which produces African easterly waves and seeds some of the stronger and longer-lived Atlantic storms, and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea which creates more energy to fuel storm development. These factors are part of the longer term variability in Atlantic atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development — known as the high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes — which have been producing more active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.
“With a changing climate, the data and expertise NOAA provides to emergency managers and partners to support decision-making before, during and after a hurricane has never been more crucial,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “To that end, this year we are operationalizing a new hurricane forecast model and extending the tropical cyclone outlook graphic from five to seven days, which will provide emergency managers and communities with more time to prepare for storms.”
This summer, NOAA will implement a series of upgrades and improvements. NOAA will expand the capacity of its operational supercomputing system by 20%. This increase in computing capability will enable NOAA to improve and run more complex forecast models, including significant model upgrades this hurricane season:
- In late June, the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System (HAFS) will become operational. HAFS will run this season in tandem with the currently operational Hurricane Weather Research and Forecast Model System and Hurricanes in a Multi-scale Ocean-coupled Non-hydrostatic model, but eventually will become NOAA’s primary hurricane model. Retrospective analysis of tropical storms and hurricanes from the 2020-2022 seasons show that this model has a 10-15% improvement in track forecasts over existing operational models. This new model was jointly created by NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory Hurricane Modeling and Prediction Program and NOAA’s National Weather Service Environmental Modeling Center.
- The Probabilistic Storm Surge model upgrade on May 2, advances storm surge forecasting for the contiguous U.S. and new forecasts for surge, tide and waves for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Forecasters now have the ability to run the model for two storms simultaneously. This model provides forecasters with the likelihood, or probability, of various flooding scenarios including a near worst-case scenario to help communities prepare for all potential outcomes.
Additional upgrades or new tools for hurricane analysis and forecasting include:
- The National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Weather Outlook graphic, which shows tropical cyclone formation potential, has expanded the forecast range from five to seven days.
- Over the last 10 years, flooding from tropical storm rainfall was the single deadliest hazard. To give communities more time to prepare, the Weather Prediction Center is extending the Excessive Rainfall Outlook an additional two days, now providing forecasts up to five days in advance. The outlook shows general areas at risk for flash flooding due to excessive rainfall.
- The National Weather Service will unveil a new generation of forecast flood inundation mapping for portions of Texas and portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast in September 2023. These forecast maps will extend to the rest of the U.S. by 2026. Forecast flood inundation maps will show the extent of flooding at the street level.
- NOAA will continue improving new and current observing systems critical in understanding and forecasting hurricanes. Two projects underway this season include:
- New small aircraft drone systems, the deployment of additional Saildrones and underwater gliders, and WindBorne global sounding balloons. These new technologies will advance our knowledge of hurricanes, fill critical data gaps and improve hurricane forecast accuracy.
- The modernization and upgrade of the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean buoy array. The upgrade will provide additional capabilities, updated instruments, more strategic placement of buoys and higher-frequency observations. Data from these buoys are used to forecast El Nino and La Nina, which can influence hurricane activity.
“As we saw with Hurricane Ian, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives. So regardless of the number of storms predicted this season, it is critical that everyone understand their risk and heed the warnings of state and local officials. Whether you live on the coast or further inland, hurricanes can cause serious impacts to everybody in their path,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “Visit ready.gov
for readiness resources, and get real time emergency alerts by downloading the FEMA App. Actions taken today can save your life when disaster strikes. The time to prepare is now.”
NOAA’s outlook is for overall seasonal activity and is not a landfall forecast. In addition to the Atlantic seasonal outlook, NOAA also issues seasonal hurricane outlooks for the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will update the 2023 Atlantic seasonal outlook in early August, just prior to the historical peak of the season.
U.S. Cyber Premiums Soared 51% to $7.2B in 2022: Fitch
Cyber insurance direct written premiums jumped 51% year-over-year in 2022 to $7.2 billion, but the hard market phase “has run its course” and rate growth will flatten out in the coming months, according to Fitch Ratings.
“Two years of substantial price increases and shifts in market underwriting practices fostered better segment results, leading to heightened competition and shifting pricing trends,” said the ratings firm in its report, adding, “The cyber market’s hardening phase of the last two years, characterized by substantial changes in pricing and underwriting practices, appears to have run its course.”
The cyber market also showed marked improvement in its results, with the loss ratio dropping to 43% in 2022 from 68% in 2021.
Fitch likened the slowing price increases to similar trends in the directors & officers liability space with new capacity and competition but warned of the potential for a “negative shift in pricing trends.”
“The current downward cycle is unlikely to shift, barring a new wave of cyber incidents with higher loss severity or a large cyber catastrophe event,” said Fitch in its report. However, while underwriting results have improved for cyber and there was a “modest tempering” in ransomware events last year, risk conditions should change rapidly.
“The claims environment remains highly fluid, given the rapid pace of technological and economic change, such that recent relative claims stability may prove short lived,” said Fitch.
Cyber insurance accounted for 1% of all property/casualty insurance premiums in 2022 but was the fastest growing sector last year. The percentage of standalone coverage in the market increased to 70% in 2022, accounting for $5.1 billion in premium and 343,000 policies, Fitch said. There are over 3.5 million package polices with cyber coverage in force, but they account for much less premium than standalone and have declined by 6% since 2020.
The top 10 U.S. cyber writers insured 52% of the market at the end of 2022, with Fairfax Financial holding the largest standalone market share at 11.1%, followed by AXA XL at 10.4% and Arch Capital at 6.3%.
Chubb wrote the largest percentage of package policies with a 28% share of all direct package premiums, followed by CNA Financial at 9% and Hartford Financial Services Group at 6%.
Fitch also examined claims activity in 2022, which increased by 27% over the last two years. Approximately 5,400 standalone cyber claims were paid in 2022, twice the amount in 2019.
“Despite concerns of higher claims costs from inflation and economic volatility, the average cost of a cyber claims payment was stable in the last two years,” Fitch commented, adding, “The potential for significant increases in loss severity derives from multiple fronts, including higher remediation and settlement costs, changes in the nature and value of ransomware events, higher regulatory fines and settlements as data privacy laws and regulations are implemented in more jurisdictions, and uncertainty regarding probability and insured losses from cyber catastrophes.”
SCOR Announces NZIA Withdrawal
Global insurer SCOR is withdrawing from the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA), CEO Thierry Léger announced during the company’s most recent Annual General Meeting.
Léger also announced SCOR’s new sustainability commitments which include a new policy on gas among others.
This states that the reinsurer will no longer cover new gas field development projects. It also noted that exceptions may be made for insurance and facultative reinsurance for insureds with a verified strategy aligned with a credible Net Zero transition plan based on the Science-Based Targets (SBTi) initiative for the oil and gas exploration and production sector.
SCOR’s new policy on Arctic oil and gas states that the reinsurer will exclude specific, stand alone direct insurance and facultative reinsurance coverage for oil and gas exploration, production and related dedicated infrastructure projects in the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) Region, with the exception of the Norwegian Arctic Region.
The reinsurer’s new climate and energy transition measures also include a new policy on oil sands. This states that SCOR will no longer provide any new (or increase its commitments on existing) stand alone direct insurance and facultative reinsurance coverage, which includes both extraction and upgraders.
Finally, its new policy on coal states that SCOR will exclude stand alone direct insurance and facultative reinsurance coverage for new dedicated thermal coal mining infrastructure such as ports, washing and handling facilities.
The reinsurer also noted that it will not write any new business in respect of standalone thermal coal mines and standalone unabated coal-fired power plants.
Organisations such as Reclaim Finance have said that they welcome these new climate commitments but believe that more can be done.
In a recent statement the NGO also called on Léger, to further exclude new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in order to align with the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 1.5°C scenario projections and meet its climate commitments.
Ariel Le Bourdonnec, Insurance Campaigner at Reclaim Finance, said: “Better late than never. SCOR is finally catching up with its competitors and adding to its exclusion of new oil fields the new gas fields.
“But it’s disappointing that it hasn’t finished the job and still allows exceptions for companies in transition. The science is clear: a company that continues to develop new oil and gas fields cannot be considered “in transition”. But SCOR is setting an example for AXA, which has still to make a commitment on gas.”
An open letter signed by 15 NGOs, including Reclaim Finance, was sent in May to Légercalling on him to stop covering new gas fields and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.
These new climate commitments, Reclaim finance has stated, respond to some of the demands made by its Insure our Future campaign, which calls on major insurers and reinsurers to act in the face of climate change.
“However, one demand remains unanswered: the call to stop covering new LNG terminals. SCOR was recently identified by Reclaim Finance and the NGO Better Brazoria as one of the insurers behind the Freeport LNG climate bomb, the second largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the US, located in the Gulf of Mexico,” the organisation added.
Reclaim Finance asked SCOR about the need to stop covering new LNG terminals, to which SCOR’s management showed no intention of taking any action, according to the NGO.
“SCOR still has no policy on new transport infrastructure which contributes to the development of new fields and locks in greenhouse gas emissions for years to come. SCOR can still provide the cover that allows projects like Freeport LNG to expand. Even if SCOR has withdrawn from the NZIA, we expect it to maintain the momentum it has built up to date and to announce as soon as possible that it will stop supporting new LNG terminals,” Ariel Le Bourdonnec added.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has projected that to limit global warming to 1.5°C requires a halt to the development of new oil and gas fields. It has also said that the war in Ukraine does not change this.
The above are well known to SCOR, which has one of the most ambitious investment policies in the oil and gas sector among French investors but an insurance policy that lags far behind its peers, Reclaim Finance concluded.