As we approach the climatological peak, I want to provide an update on the North American severe weather season and paint a picture of what the rest of the season might yield.
Besides the latest round of severe flooding in the South Central U.S., there has not been a noteworthy severe weather event this year. Likewise, there has not been a PCS Wind and Thunderstorm Event bulletin over a billion dollars yet. 2005 is the last year a severe weather season was without a billion dollar event this late in the season (understanding that the 2015 data is still preliminary, future loss development is likely and three events yet to have estimates issued).
Overall, the loss sum of all PCS Wind and Thunderstorm Event bulletin (10) is still running 41% of what would be normally expected by this time of year. This also equates to the slowest loss start to the severe weather season since 2007.
This overall lack of severe weather also shows up in the Storm Prediction Center severe weather reports for tornadoes, wind and hail, all of which show they are trending below the 10-year average report count.
As you might have seen in the media, the South Central U.S. has seen its fair share of rain, which has now reversed the drought conditions that had persisted in the region since 2011. Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies. Flood coverage is available as a separate policy from FEMA National Flood Insurance Program and from a few private insurers. However, with 8.8 million households in Texas and only 600,000 flood insurance policies, which are mostly coastal I suspect, the flood aspect is largely uninsured event outside auto insurance policies. As the Insurance Council of Texas told A.M. Best auto insurance losses alone are likely to exceed the Correction: The actual figure is $250m or greater (not $1bn) , there was an incorrect figure in the A.M. Best article Artemis sourced the data from.
Highly correlated with this heavy rain for this time of year would be thunderstorm activity, and this region is where the thunderstorm activity has occurred. But like overall PCS losses, Texas is still running below the 10-year loss average for this time of year with total losses running at a similar level seen over the last three years with further loss development to occur with three more PCS events.
We can speculate about why such heavy rains have impacted the south-central states. The heavy rains can be partly attributed to much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and an active southern jet stream flow from the evolving El Niño in the eastern Pacific. El Niño is a state of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which is essentially a slowly varying oscillation of currents in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that can either direct warm waters towards the eastern Pacific (El Niño), or towards the Western Pacific (La Niña). El Niño conditions are now established, and I would expect El Niño conditions to prevail through the remainder of this summer and into the fall. This, combined with the warm Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures (concern for hurricane season also), means that more wet conditions will likely be in the cards for the Southern Plains – at least through June and possibly into July with the slow drift of storms and moisture into the Central Plains in July.