Hurricane Season 2012 – El Niño or La Niña?

In Florida Hurricane Insurance, Insurance Adjuster, Insurance Appraisal by Patricia Staebler

Recently, I attended a meeting where an insurance agent made a presentation about the probability that Manatee and Sarasota Counties in Florida will be hit by a hurricane this upcoming season.

He compared several decades and calculated that we are one year overdue for a direct hit along our coast line. Not good – I thought to myself , and at the same time I was glad that I renewed my insurance claims adjuster license!

Who would need an appraiser after a catastrophe like that? Most likely no one. But with my other  license I can always switch to my insurance adjuster profession. How ironical it would be if I would adjust buildings I previously appraised for insurance purposes!

Earlier this month I had to appraise property on Anna Maria Island, Florida. On the way, I ran into some fisherman in Cortez. Over a cool beer, they told me that the water out there in the Gulf is unusually warm for this time in our early Spring season and they expect a very active hurricane season.

Oh my, I thought, first the insurance agent and now even the fisherman tell the same tale!  I remembered my Dad always saying “believe farmers and fishermen when it comes to weather predictions”. Additionally, my friend Julie owns a nursery and has been in farming her whole life; she just has to sniff the air and can tell me exactly when it will start to rain. So why wouldn’t I believe the fishermen?

Well, appraisers are analytical folks and therefore I took some time to search the world wide web and found to my astonishment the exact contrary of what I was told.

I found a study from the Colorado State University authored by Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray, the first one a research scientist, the latter a Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science.

Just to demonstrate the quality of their work, let’s have a look at their predictions for 2011 with the comparison to what really happened during the hurricane season 2011:

We can see that their predictions were pretty accurate and therefore I am tempted to rely on their predictions for 2012. The study for 2012 is 27 pages long and difficult to read for non-meteorologists. But, in a nutshell, they say that the severity of the hurricane season depends entirely on the question of which will prevail:

El Niño or La Niña?

In the spreadsheet above we can see, that it would be very favorable to have a nice and solid El Niño versus an angry La Niña. In their latest study issued March 21, 2012 the two scientists anticipate four scenarios for the development of El Niño:

– Thermohaline Circulation (THC) becomes unusually strong in 2012 and no El Niño develops (5% chance)

– THC continues in the above-average condition it has been in since 1995 and no El Niño develops (25% chance)

– THC continues in the above-average condition it has been in since 1995 with the development of a significant El Niño (45% chance)

– THC becomes weaker and there is the development of a significant El Niño (25% chance)

I am definitely relieved and once more can hope for an uneventful hurricane season for Florida. I mean, at least the chances are 70% if we add up the last two possibilities. This is much better than the diagnosis of “one year overdue” and ” the water is already too warm”.

Lets face it, when June comes closer we will be bombarded with messages that hurricane season is upon us and we all get slightly nervous. This year, I will watch out for El Niño first and will give him a big fat welcome. Hopefully he also brings tons of rain, we sure do need it!

However, safety first.! Stock up on batteries, water, non-perishable food and the whole nine yards (if you are a Floridian you know the drill). Make sure your hurricane shutters work and get rid of loose items on your porch. That is what they taught us, never let your guard down, even if the prognosis is good.

If you are interested in that very detailed study please go to The Tropical Meteorology Project, the studies are right on the first page.

If you need a residential or commercial appraisal, feel free to contact me for a consultation. Thanks for the read!

Patricia Staebler, SRA

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