Filed Under:Risk Management, Weather Risk

As Irma fades, swirling Jose eyes $19 trillion in property

If Harvey and Irma offer any lesson, it’s that a storm like Jose needs to be taken seriously.

Computer models have had Jose passing harmlessly out to sea β€” or crashing ashore anywhere from North Carolina to Nova Scotia. (Image: NOAA)
Computer models have had Jose passing harmlessly out to sea β€” or crashing ashore anywhere from North Carolina to Nova Scotia. (Image: NOAA)

(Bloomberg) -- Don’t underestimate Jose.

The meteorological gods seem to be working against the hurricane as Irma’s successor lumbers over the Atlantic Ocean. But it’s so far out — more than 960 miles from New York — that it’s too soon to call the all clear.

“If it is going to be a threat, it is probably a threat next week,” said  Rob Carolan, a meteorologist at Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire. For now, though, “Jose is having very serious issues.” 

Related: What businesses can learn from Harvey and Irma before the next hurricane

High-pressure system pushing & shoving Jose


Hurricanes can’t move under their own power, and the high-pressure system directing Jose Wednesday was pushing and shoving it into making a loop around the central Atlantic, said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Carolan said that could have the benefit of robbing the cyclone of muscle as it circles back over its own wake, churning up the cold water that saps storms’ strength.

At the same time, the loop could easily turn Jose to point directly at North America, a maneuver that would put about $18.8 trillion in property from Maine to Florida in a potentially devastating shadow.

“That sort of behavior is difficult to model,” Masters said. “Especially when you don’t have an accurate picture of conditions.”

It may be days before the forecasting image becomes clearer, thanks in part to Irma, said Peter Sousounis, director of meteorology at AIR Worldwide, a risk modeler based in Boston. Irma threw out what are called Rossby Waves, which can stretch for thousands of miles. They joggled the upper atmosphere and messed with the steering currents around Jose.

Out to sea or crashing ashore?


Computer models have had Jose passing harmlessly out to sea — or crashing ashore anywhere from North Carolina to Nova Scotia.

Related: Is your home in a flood zone?

The storm was swirling around the Atlantic about 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of Bermuda with top winds of 75 mph, as of 5 a.m. New York time. On its current track, high winds could be reaching the island late Friday as it passes north between there and the East Coast, the National Hurricane Center said.

There is a chance Jose will fall below hurricane strength in about three days as its top winds dip to 70 mph. Or it could end up in a patch of ocean that would allow it to draw in warm water and become more formidable.

Not enough data


The experts just don’t have enough data yet. While satellites can look down, the Atlantic isn’t dotted with weather stations that can send balloons 22 miles into the sky to sample conditions. And it’s those measurements that make the models accurate.

The U.S. often uses Air Force Reserve and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pilots and crews, called Hurricane Hunters, to fly into storms and drop instruments and launch Coyote drones into the winds.

One of those hunters discovered that at its peak at 11 p.m. New York time on Sept. 8, Jose’s winds reached 155 miles per hour, making it a Category 4 storm and a near rival of Irma.

100 lives & $135 billion, so far


The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has already claimed at least 100 lives and inflicted estimated damage of at least $135 billion from Texas and Florida to across the Caribbean. Harvey also temporarily shut about 25% of oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and 10% of U.S. refining capacity. Irma subjected Florida’s citrus groves to fruit losses that are just now being tallied.

Related: Irma victims caught off guard seen fueling insurers' losses

If Harvey and Irma offer any lesson, it’s that a storm like Jose needs to be taken seriously.

“It could very well intensify again,” Sousounis said. “We cannot turn our heads away from Jose.”

Related

A $150 billion misfire: How disaster modelers got Irma so wrong

Twenty miles may have made a $150 billion difference.

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