2016-12-09 - By Martin Hedberg

The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season in Summary

The 2016 hurricane season was the most active since 2012, with one of the costliest and deadliest hurricanes in several years. However, no cat bonds triggered following a hurricane during the season.

Graphical representation of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season

Graphical representation of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season / Wikipedia / Public Domain

Natural catastrophes come in many different flavours. We have earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, mudslides, wildfires, hail storms, droughts, high wind speeds etc. Within each of these categories there are different types of extremes.

Take for example high wind speeds. From a physical point of view the wind speed itself implies a destructive force. But for example the change of speed and direction is also a most important factor considering the destructiveness of the wind. The more gusty, the more stress the wind will force upon infrastructure, nature and victims. Not to mention the combination of wind and water, either as precipitation or a storm surge, undermining the stability of infrastructure and vegetation.

We also categorise the high wind speed events due to the physical circumstances causing the motion of the air. It can be an intense low pressure with fronts, katabatic winds, tornadoes or hurricanes. The later also known as typhoon or cyclone, depending on where on earth it occurs.

Atlantic hurricanes create a major threats to large populated areas as well as infrastructure and insured assets. The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1, and ends November 30, however there may be hurricanes off-season as well. The month with largest probability for hurricanes is September.

You can forecast individual hurricanes, strength and tracks a week ahead. There are also ways to make probabilistic predictions months ahead. Then we talk about the number and strength of hurricanes, probabilities of making landfall or not. What we can’t say, months ahead, is the date they might form or hit a specific location.

At Entropics we analyse predictions issued by major institutions around the globe in the field of hurricane forecasting. A specific signature of 2016 was the change from El Niño to a developing La Niña in the Pacific ocean and warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic. Based on the analysis we forecasted the numbers of Atlantic Named storms, Hurricanes, Major hurricanes and Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) to be above normal. The average for number of storms 1981-2010, and ACE 1951-2000, representing a normal year is presented in brackets. Our forecast, issued in May 2016:

  • Named storms: 13,9 (12,1)
  • Hurricanes: 7,9 (6,4)
  • Major hurricanes: 3,3 (2,7)
  • Accumulated cyclone energy: 113 (93)

So how was the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season? There was 15 named storms, of which 7 became hurricanes. Of these, 3 developed into major hurricanes (3+ on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale). The Accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) became 132 units, which is the highest value since 2012.

Some observations from the season

Overall, the 2016 hurricane season was the most active since 2012. There was an early start, off-season, when Alex was formed in mid January. This is rather unusual, last time we had an Atlantic hurricane in January was 1995. In September, hurricane Hermine was the first hurricane in 11 years to make landfall in Florida.

A second Florida landfall threatened as hurricane Matthew scraped the coastline before finally making landfall in South Carolina as a category 1. Matthew became the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since 2005 with more than 1600 deaths attributed. Most of the victims was struck in Haiti. The casualty was partly because Matthew hit Haiti as a category 5 with high wind speed and flooding emerging from deforested hills, partly because the infrastructure, telecommunication and social structure in Haiti still isn’t rebuilt after the 2010 earthquake.

Matthew caused damages estimated in excess of $10.5 billion, making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. However, no cat bonds were triggered by these events, though market values fell slightly ahead of hurricane Matthew, recovering the week after.

The final storm of the official 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season was Tropical storm Otto, making a rather unusual move as it crossed over to the Pacific basin on November 25.

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Martin Hedberg

Martin Hedberg

Chief Meteorologist

Martin has 20 years’ experience from meteorology and previous officer in Swedish Armed Forces, civil career as meteorologist at Swedish Television and as CEO for a commercial weather company. He also works as a climate expert and advisor about extreme weather and how climate changes affects society, finance and energy markets. Martin holds a Bachelor of Science with a Major in Meteorology from Stockholm University.

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