El Niño saves Florida from hurricane winds, but other severe weather could be costly this winter

The central and eastern Pacific experiences a lot of year-to-year variability in Sea Surface Temperatures (SST). Some years the water is much warmer (El Niño), and some years the water is much cooler (La Niña). The current phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is approaching its peak warmth with near-record SST anomalies. This relatively predictable El Niño weather pattern should help the insurance industry prepare for weather patterns that could cause insured losses this winter.

Although the media often highlights the negative aspects of an El Niño weather pattern, there are many positives for the insurance industry: overall insurance loss data suggests that an El Niño weather pattern generally produces better financial results for the industry than a La Niña weather pattern.

Hurricanes, which are the largest cause of insured loss across the U.S., are a great example to show how El Niño has improved financial results. An El Niño weather pattern increases wind shear over the tropics, which significantly reduces the season’s Atlantic hurricane activity and therefore lowers the probability of a U.S. hurricane making landfall – ultimately leading to lower insured losses overall in El Niño years. However, as hurricane season ends and winter begins, El Niño may impact Florida weather, and consequently the insurance industry, in less financially favorable ways.

ElNino_Florida
Previous El Niño patterns suggest that the Gulf Coast will see cooler and wetter conditions this winter; not because of numerous arctic outbreaks, but because of the stronger influence of the subtropical jet stream. Storm tracks will then move farther south producing more clouds and rain. On the positive side, more precipitation reduces the risk of wildfires across region. On the negative side, these conditions can also lead to severe weather that includes hail and tornadoes.

Figure 1 shows a comparison of storm tracks during El Niño versus La Niña years.

Florida_ElNinoStormTrack

Figure 1. Winter storm tracks in El Niño versus La Niña years. (Source: NWS)

Figure 2 shows that the El Niño severe weather signal is most pronounced in central and south Florida and illustrates increased tornado reports from National Weather Service (NWS) local storm report data for the period, 1950-2014. El Niño years produce 77% more tornadoes than ENSO-neutral years and 53% more tornadoes than La Niña years. Further, it should be noted that Florida tornadoes typically occur in the evening hours which can increase fatalities.

FL_ENSO_Statistics

Figure 2. NWS severe weather local storm reports between November and March during Neutral, La Niña, and El Niño years for the period 1950 to 2014 in Central and South Florida (NWS Melbourne, Tampa and Miami Warning Areas).

Property Claims Services report that Florida insured wind and thunderstorm event losses vary drastically between El Niño and La Niña years: a whopping 152% difference between an El Niño year and La Niña year, and an even greater difference (188%) between an El Niño year and ENSO-neutral year. The higher loss levels are driven partly by specific large loss events that impacted Florida during El Niño years. The following tornado outbreaks are prime examples:

  • The 1998 February 22 – 23 “Kissimmee” outbreak continues to live in infamy as the deadliest tornado event in Florida history. In all, 12 tornadoes touched down across Central Florida. The strongest was rated EF3 and was one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded in Florida.
  • The 2007 February 2 “Groundhog Day” outbreak was deadly and costly for Sumter, Volusia and Lake Counties and for the insurance industry: it caused over $100 million in insured losses and damaged or destroyed over 2,000 structure.

Tornadoes are highly correlated to the other perils that result from severe thunderstorms, and these other perils such as hail can result in high insured losses. In fact, one of the costliest severe weather events in Florida history was during the 1991-1992 El Niño winter which produced large hail storms that hit the Orlando metro area on March 25. Some locations reported hailstones the size of grapefruit; other locations reported that small hailstones piled up inches deep. At the time this event was the largest insured disaster in the state history; it even topped the notorious hurricane Donna in 1960. Unfortunately, the devastating hail storm was soon eclipsed when Andrew blew through southern Florida later that year.

Of course, global factors other than the ENSO cycle complicate seasonal forecasting. From soil moisture in the U.S. to winds way up in the stratosphere and early winter Eurasian snowpack, these other factors sometimes cancel each other out. However, as shown above, the data suggest that although Florida has not seen the wind blow as a result of a hurricane in over a decade, El Niño could cause the wind to blow from severe thunderstorms that ultimately lead to potentially higher-than-expected severe weather losses across the state.

BMS team raises over $140,000 for homeless youth of New York

BMS Intermediaries is delighted to report the successful participation and fundraising achievement of its team who took part in the first Covenant House (re)insurance industry Sleep Out, on September 27th 2015.

Covenant House, a charity based in North and South America, supports homeless youth with the provision of essential services and the tools to build a brighter, independent future.

Seven members of staff took part in the event, spending a night on the streets of New York with their guests, equipped only with a sleeping bag and a cardboard box. In total, the BMS team raised over $140,000, contributing to the overall funds raised of more than $470,000.

They were:

• Andrew Bustillo, Chief Executive Officer
• Kristine Westall, Chief Operations Officer
• Dawnmarie Black, Senior Vice President
• Romulo Braga, Senior Vice President
• Jack Hickey, Senior Vice President
• Gavin Brennan, Assistant Vice President
• Mike O’Connell, Intern

“The efforts made by the BMS team, including our guests from other companies, towards raising sponsorship and awareness around the (re)insurance industry’s first Sleep Out, is testament to this industry’s commitment towards making a positive impact on surrounding communities. The funds raised from this event will make an immediate difference to the lives of homeless young people supported by Covenant House, providing food, clothing, shelter, counselling and job training to those who need it most. As Board Chair of Covenant House I’d like to reiterate our thanks to all those that took part, as well as the co-workers, clients and families that gave their time and sponsorship to the event.”
Andrew Bustillo

So far this year, over 56,000 children have been helped by Covenant House. BMS are looking forward to taking part in the event again next year, with the hope of supporting Covenant House’s continued provision of essential services to young homeless people.

BMS and friends posing

For more information about Covenant House and their work, please visit:
www.covenanthouse.org