Welcome to our fifteenth year of daily reports for the Atlantic basin, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico storm season 2022. This bulletin now goes to approaching 950 daily readers on e-mail with close to 10,000 followers on Twitter and more picking it up on our website. This is a free service and distributed without restriction. If you would like colleagues or friends to be added to the list, please contact me on amccourt@munichre.com and I will add them to the list.

New readers will be horrified at the length of this email. Please rest assured that this is by far the most I would expect anyone to read. You will be relieved to know that we normally get the daily report done in a paragraph or two.

This started life as a daily, very brief, easy-to-read and when appropriate, light-hearted bulletin for the energy team at then Watkins Syndicate, now Munich Re Syndicate. As more colleagues asked to be added, we began to receive requests from third parties, brokers initially, then other underwriters. Now we have a wide range of addressees including offshore operators, CEOs, superyacht Captains and owners, fishermen, drillers and assorted seafarers both leisure and professional. All are welcome but should take heed of my words of caution. Every year, I make it absolutely clear with the cynicism of an old sailor, that I hold long-range forecasts in absolute contempt. I don’t trust weather forecasts and nor should you. Least of all, mine. I have spent far too much time at sea up to my knees in green water, being chucked about like a deckhand’s mop trying to hang on to my breakfast, while someone safely tucked behind a faraway desk assures me that I am having a calm day.

Fourteen years of this has taught me that I’m no smarter now than I was when I was dodging storms for a living. The old adage of the more that I learn, the less I know, has never been so true. I do however have a personal rule of thumb for the North Atlantic (and United Kingdom latitudes) in winter. 24 hours is probable. 48 hours is possible. 72 hours is guesswork. 96 hours is nonsense. To a degree, we can apply that to the tropical Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico when considering cyclone tracks. (I have another tip for those committed insomniacs who are interested in the weather at sea. Listen to the UK Met Office forecast in the summer sailing months and subtract two points from the Beaufort wind force to get a true picture. Ever since they were panned over the 1979 Fastnet disaster, this has been a good rule of thumb. An unofficial safety margin. Totally deniable of course). I digress…..

Throughout the season, we maintain a continuous overview of weather charts and listen to the ever-changing opinion of professional agencies, smart analysts and vile weather enthusiasts, then throw in our own hunches to produce a regurgitated opinion. We take a quick shufti at the overnight charts each morning then the early reports from the US agencies around midday before producing our own, which usually then goes out early in the afternoon UK time. The nominal start to the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico season is June 1st and ends on November 30th. For the last year or two, that was stretched at both ends.  The last few seasons have all had an early start hence this summary is being published early. Once ALEX appears, we’ll begin our daily bulletin. Thereafter, for every day throughout the season, our aim is to provide a daily simple, plainly worded and – one hopes – reasonably sound forecast.

I have been unfairly accused of accuracy in four of the past five years. It is neither my intention or desire to be accurate with season’s figures but with some pressure from readers, and with more than a whiff of suspicion that there are some sweepstakes being held, I’ll take a stab at an annual forecast.

Increasing uncertainty based on freak weather becoming less freak and more mainstream has had the modellers all over the place for this year’s forecast. I always like to look at Colorado State University at this time of year for sound reasoning. CSU is predicting 19 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. With a continued La Niña kicking off the season (falling air over the Pacific, rising air over the Atlantic) and potential for an area of fertility east of the Caribbean, I feel this is rather conservative. To add to the lusty storm outlook, water temperatures across the Atlantic basin, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico are above normal which provides plentiful cyclone fuel. For the first time in several years, warmer water is expected across the convergence zone almost all the way to the African coast. This will weaken the seasonal Bermuda High pressure zone and take the sting out of the trade winds, decreasing wind shear, inevitably increasing hurricane risks to the islands of the eastern Caribbean. Indeed, the entire coastal United States from Brownsville to Boston may be at a greater risk for significant impact this year, although the smart money is on the Atlantic coast rather than the Gulf of Mexico. I should add here that views, comments and predictions expressed in these reports are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Syndicate.

To get to the point, on the basis of one guess being as good as any other, my reluctant prediction is for 22 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes. As ever, I hope this is a wild overestimation.

Names this year are ALEX, BONNIE, COLIN, DANIELLE, EARL, FIONA, GASTON, HERMINE, IAN, JULIA, KARL, LISA, MARTIN, NICOLE, OWEN, PAULA, RICHARD, SHARY, TOBIAS, VIRGINIE and WALTER. Should this list become exhausted, a supplemental list has been drawn up by the World Meteorological Organisation which begins ADRIA (which would be the end of my precited season), BRAYLEN, CARIDAD and DESHAWN. I feel typing the entire list ending with WILL would be seriously tempting providence. The tradition of using Greek characters for season overruns has been discontinued.

Many of you will be aware that I draw information from a number of sources, varying from the reliable agencies such as the UK Met Office, a couple of Europeans and of course many US, particularly military, sources. In quiet times, I occasionally share a snippet from one of the more eccentric storm enthusiasts who can always be relied upon to see a cumulus cloud and predict Armageddon. One such observer is the Canadian guy, or ‘Blind Sniper‘, who seems to have acquired a popular following amongst you over the years judging from feedback received. He has had the odd success and cannot be totally disregarded, but has only been generally remarkable by fairly consistent inaccuracy. Last year, for the fifth year in a row, he tracked a storm which would have passed directly over my home in south-east England, giving me some cause to suspect that he is on to me and knows where I live.

Thanks to the many of you who read our daily blurb who have sent kind messages of thanks and feedback at the end of the 2021 season, particularly the growing Blind Sniper Fan Club. Always much appreciated. I think we have replied to all, as indeed I endeavour to do throughout the season. Please note that I can only access incoming mail replies to the daily report when I am in London but I often travel, which may mean a delayed reply, or they are simply submerged by e-mail flotsam which comes in with every internet tide.

I have enjoyed exchanges with many of you over the years which have been in some cases, quite heart-warming. Three years ago I was contacted by a Police Officer in Georgia who had apparently been an avid reader for some years and wanted to thank me for the pleasant weather on the day of her husband’s funeral. ‘Happy to do my bit, Ma’am’. Last year I had a delightful message from a seagoing Master who expressed thanks for my ‘holding his hand over multiple Atlantic crossings for a number of years’. I’ve been a Master myself and know the value of a friendly word from an old hand in an otherwise lonely place. I am always touched by such messages, but all things must come to an end, so this seems as good a time as any to call it a day. This then will be my final season, so here we go one last time.

Stand by engines for the 2022 Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico storm season.

Image NASA/Patti Rhodes