Home > Property & Casualty > El Nino and La Nina – are you prepared for hurricane season?

El Nino and La Nina – are you prepared for hurricane season?

elninoOver the past decade there’s been a lot of debate over the topic of global warming and how much of an impact it may have on weather patterns, and how it may impact weather phenomena. Recently, Hurricane Sandy has been correlated to a hurricane on steroids by some, while other scientists and meteorological professionals have a slightly different view. Gerald North, climate professor at Texas A&M University states, “mostly it’s natural, I’d say it’s 80, 90 percent natural. These things do happen, like the drought, it’s a natural thing.” A lot of debate and a lot of questions remain when it comes to global warming. Over the years, as scientists are able to gather more data, hopefully more questions will be answered.

One thing scientists do have more certainty about is two atmospheric and oceanic phenomena called El Nino and La Nina. The former of the two is primarily associated to the warming of the water in the Pacific Ocean, while La Nina is the cooling of the water in the Pacific. The anomalous warming and cooling in the Equatorial Pacific create noticeable consequences for global weather. Currently, we are in a relatively calm state of El Nino and La Nina. One interpretation is looking at a bell-curve with El Nino and La Nina on the tail ends of the curve. Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that from 1950 to 1997, El Niño’s were present 31% of the time and La Niña’s 23%; the other 46% was a neutral state. These numbers have recently shown patterns towards greater El Nino shifts due to atmospheric warming.

So what does all of this mean for us? Particularly those who have property in the Caribbean and southeastern coast of the United States?

These conditions oscillate every 3-4 years and last on average, approximately 9-12 months. One of the primary components we can focus our attention on during El Nino and La Nina is the location of the subtropical jet stream that blows from West to East across the Gulf of Mexico during El Nino. The massive column of air weakens during La Nina, resulting in limited atmospheric deflection or disturbance to cyclone activity, which opens up a relatively clear path for a hurricane to strike land. Dr. William Gray from Colorado State University, a pioneer for his research efforts in Atlantic hurricane activity, believes there is a 30%-50% chance that El Nino will develop for the 2013 season. He also believes that if El Nino does not develop, an active 2013 hurricane season is likely.

For information pertaining to Dr. Gray’s 2013 detailed hurricane forecast models, please click here.

As the 2013 hurricane season begins on June 1st, this is a friendly reminder to look at the larger picture of weather patterns and consider investing a little more thought into the physical security of your property, especially if a strong La Nina period is forecasted.

Some things to keep in mind about protection of your property:

  • Review your homeowner’s policy and ask your broker about any special provisions pertaining to hurricanes, wind deductibles and storm surge.
  • Know your responsibilities when it comes to installing appropriate grade shutters and covering your openings, including your garage door and skylights. Make sure to verify that generators and sump pumps are in working order.

About the Author

Matt Shanahan is a Client Service Manager at William Gallagher Associates (WGA) in the Private Client Group. He is responsible for managing high net worth accounts and assists with the implementation of risk management programs.

617.646.0297 | MShanahan@wgains.com | Connect with Matt on LinkedIn

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