If newly released predictions on how the hurricane season will play out come to fruition, it could be a hectic summer for commercial diving and marine services, as tropical storm development may be above normal in the Atlantic Ocean.
"NOAA says there's a 45% chance the hurricane season is above normal."
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration released its annual forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30. Due primarily to an underactive El Nino, a weather phenomenon that affects ocean temperatures, there's a 45 percent chance of an atypical season for storms, totaling between 11 and 17 – nine of which could become hurricanes, which is more than usual. On the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, a tropical storm becomes a hurricane when sustained wind gusts reach a minimum of 74 miles per hour, which is colloquially known as a Category 1. Even though this is the weakest form, Cat 1 storms have the capacity to cause substantial damage to beachfront property and dramatically raise ocean tides, affecting marine contractors and marine employers.
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is one of several organizations or climate experts that examines hurricanes and what they could be like from year to year. In April, for example, Colorado State University released its outlook for hurricane development. Unlike the NOAA, however, CSU's Phil Klotzbach said he believes tropical storm development will be less than what climate scientists view as the norm. Writing in The Washington Post, Klotzbach predicted four of the 11 named storms will become hurricanes and only two will be Category 3 or higher. Cat 3 hurricanes produce gusts of at least 111 mph, which is the equivalent of 96 knots.
All it takes is one
Where both the NOAA and CSU seem to agree is El Nino will be the ultimate determinant of how the hurricane season plays out. But regardless of whether the next five months result in a substantial number of tropical storms or relatively few, all it takes is one big storm to cause serious disruption, noted Robert Fenton, acting administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Association. Fenton urged both families and employers to prepare by making the proper modifications in the event a storm system develops. Establishing clear communication channels is also paramount.
"Know your evacuation route; tune into your local news .. and finally listen to local authorities as a storm approaches," Fenton said.
The Atlantic hurricane season has been abnormally quiet for three out of the last four years. Weather systems intensified in 2016, however, as the atmosphere produced seven hurricanes, four of which were Category 3 or higher, according to NOAA's analysis.
"Commercial diving employment rose 50% in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Katrina."
Commercial diver demand usually high when hurricanes strike
Commercial diving services tend to be in high demand in the aftermath of severe storms. This was especially true in 2005, following the harsh effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As noted by The Houston Chronicle at the time, several oil rigs and offshore exploration projects were adversely affected, necessitating commercial divers' expertise. Roughly 1,000 commercial divers were providing services in the Gulf of Mexico before August 2015. In the wake of Katrina and Rita, the total jumped to 1,500, the paper reported.
Whether your business is commercial diving, oilfield, oceanographic or energy, insurance should be a top concern this time of year. Fisk Marine Insurance International has the full range of coverage services that your company needs to prepare for whatever Mother Nature has up its sleeves.