Forecasters are predicting an active Atlantic hurricane season in 2011, an indication that property insurers may not be able to benefit as they did in 2009 and 2010 from another benign hurricane season, according to a new report from A.M. Best.

With the official start to the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season just over two weeks away, A.M. Best’s catastrophe review says that forecasters are predicting three to five intense hurricanes in the Atlantic, above the long-term average of two to three intense storms.

One forecaster notes that the U.S. has not had a three-year stretch without a hurricane landfall since the 1860s.

As U.S. property/casualty insurers get set for another active hurricane season, events in the first four months of 2011 are already influencing their catastrophe management programs and, potentially, their operating results, according to A.M. Best.

The ratings agency believes primary insurers could face higher reinsurance costs at upcoming July 1 renewals, given first-quarter 2011 catastrophe losses sustained by global reinsurers.

While property writers continue to manage their exposure to frequent wind, hail and tornadoes, particularly through pricing, deductibles and exposure-reduction initiatives, A.M. Best also warns that volatility remains a significant challenge for this segment.

It’s worth noting that historically, hurricanes and tropical storms represent the greatest share of U.S. insured catastrophe losses.

Indeed, this I.I.I. chart below shows that during the 20 years from 1990 through 2009, hurricanes and tropical storms accounted for $152.4 billion in U.S. catastrophe losses – or 45.2 percent of the $337.3 billion in total catastrophe losses for the period (in 2009 inflation-adjusted dollars).

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(1) Catastrophes are all events causing direct insured losses to property of $25 million or more in 2009 dollars. Adjusted for inflation by ISO.
(2) Excludes snow.
(3) Does not include flood damage covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program.
(4) Includes wildland fires.
(5) Includes civil disorders, water damage, utility service disruptions and non-property losses such as those covered by workers compensation.

Source: ISO’s Property Claim Services (PCS) unit.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on U.S. catastrophes.