Monthly Archives: January 2017

A historic year for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in U.S.

By Adam B. Smith

This blog originally appeared on Climate.gov and is shared with kind permission.

Image: The location and type of the 15 weather and climate disasters in 2016 with losses exceeding $1 billion dollars. The majority of events occurred in the middle of the country form the Central Plains to Texas and Louisiana. Map by NOAA NCEI, adapted by Climate.gov.

NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) tracks U.S. weather and climate events that have great economic and societal impacts (www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions). Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 203 weather and climate disasters where the overall damage costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index, as of January 2017). The cumulative costs for these 203 events exceed $1.1 trillion.

The year 2016 was an unusual year, as there were 15 weather and climate events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included drought, wildfire, 4 inland flood events, 8 severe storm events, and a tropical cyclone event (see map below). Cumulatively, these 15 events led to 138 fatalities and caused $46.0 billion in total, direct costs. The 2016 total was the 2nd highest annual number of U.S. billion-dollar disasters, behind the 16 events that occurred in 2011.

Perhaps most surprising were the 4 separate billion-dollar inland flood (i.e., non-tropical) events during 2016, doubling the previous record, as no more than 2 billion-dollar inland flood events have occurred in a year since 1980. Three of these flood events were clustered in Louisiana and Texas between March and August, collectively causing damage approaching $15.0 billion. This is a notable record, further highlighted by the numerous other record flooding events that impacted the U.S. in 2016.

The changing frequency of billion-dollar disaster events

The U.S. has experienced a rising number of events that cause significant amounts of damage. From 1980–2016, the annual average number of billion-dollar events is 5.5 (CPI-adjusted). For the most recent 5 years (2012–2016), the annual average is 10.6 events (CPI-adjusted). The year 2005 was the most costly since 1980 due to the combined impacts of Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Dennis, as shown in the following time-series. The year 2012 was the second most costly due to the extreme U.S. drought ($30 billion) and Sandy ($65 billion) driving the losses.

Image: Animation showing the number (bar height) and type (bar color) of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the United States since 1980. The purple line shows total annual costs. The red line shows the running 5-year average. NOAA Climate.gov animation adapted from NCEI originals by Adam Smith.

The increase in population and material wealth over the last several decades are an important factor for the increased damage potential. These trends are further complicated by the fact that many population centers and infrastructure exist in vulnerable areas like coasts and river floodplains, while building codes are often insufficient in reducing damage from extreme events. Climate change is probably also paying a role in the increasing frequency of some types of extreme weather that lead to billion-dollar disasters.

In particular, the U.S. has experienced a higher frequency of billion-dollar inland (i.e., non-tropical) flood events in recent years. Perhaps this should not be unexpected, as heavy rainfall events and the ensuing flood risks are increasing due to the fact that warming loads the atmosphere with more water vapor (NCA, 2014). Over time, a wetter atmosphere increases the potential for extreme rainfall events, which we have experienced more of in recent years (e.g., ColoradoTexasLouisianaSouth CarolinaWest Virginia).

Other types of extreme weather events have also shown a higher frequency including the semi-persistent Western drought and wildfire seasons since the year 2000. It has been observed that wildfire seasons are lengthening in the Western states and Alaska (NCA, 2014), while forestry management budgets are increasingly diverted for wildfire suppression costs (USFS, 2015).

In contrast, there have been fewer cold wave / crop-freeze events and destructive winter storm events, which were more frequent in the 1980s and 1990s. It is worth noting that in recent decades, the ratio of broken U.S. record high vs. record low temperatures has been dominated by new record highs, with far fewer record lows (NCAR, 2016; NCEI, 2017). However, trends in winter storm event intensity are subject to more uncertainty than only temperature.

Since 1980, landfalling tropical cyclones have been intermittent but are highly destructive. These impacts will only become more costly, as population and wealth continues to concentrate along our coasts, and sea level continues to rise. Severe local storm impacts (i.e., tornado, hail, straight-line winds) have risen in recent years but long-term trends in these events are subject to greater uncertainties (Tippet et al., 2016).

The frequency of disaster events by type

The distribution of damage from U.S. Billion-dollar disaster events across the 1980-2016 period of record (as of January 2017, CPI-adjusted) is dominated by tropical cyclone losses. The following table highlights that landfalling tropical cyclones have caused the most damage ($560.1 billion) and have the highest average event cost ($16.0 billion per event).

Drought ($223.8 billion), severe storms ($180.1 billion) and inland flooding ($110.7 billion) have also caused considerable damage based on the list of billion-dollar events. It is of note that severe storms are responsible for the highest number of billion-dollar disaster events (83) yet the average event cost is the lowest ($2.2 billion)— but still substantial. Tropical cyclones and flooding represent the second and third most frequent event types (35 and 26), respectively.

Image: Table showing the number and costs associated with each type of billion-dollar disaster in the United States from 1980-2016. Tropical cyclones are not the most common disaster type, but they are the costliest. Billion-dollar severe storms have the lowest average cost per event, but they occur more than twice as often as the next most common event type. Table by Adam Smith, NOAA NCEI. 

The spatial distribution of disaster events by type

The U.S. is weather and climate conscious for good reason, as each geographic region faces a unique combination of persistent hazards. The maps below reflect the frequency with which each state has been part of a billion-dollar disaster event (i.e., the totals do not mean that each state alone  suffered $1 billion in losses for each event).

Image: Each map shows the number of billion-dollar disasters affecting each U.S. state between 1980 and 2016. State totals mean that the state was part of that many billion-dollar disaster events, not that it alone experienced that many events. Image adapted by Climate.gov, based on NCEI originals by Adam Smith.

Each disaster type has a distinct footprint of impact over time. We see wildfire impacts largely west of the Plains states, including a few Southeast impacts. The high-frequency inland flooding events often occur in states adjacent to large rivers or the Gulf of Mexico, which is a warm source of moisture to fuel rainstorms. Drought impacts are most focused in the Southern and Plains states where there are billions of dollars in agriculture and livestock assets.

Severe local storm events are common in the Plains and into the Ohio River Valley states. Winter storm impacts are concentrated in the Northeast, not surprising given the propensity for Nor’easters, while tropical cyclone impacts range from Texas to New England, but also include many inland states.

In total, from 1980–2016, the U.S. South/Central and Southeast regions experienced a higher frequency of billion-dollar disaster events than any other region, as shown in the red total disaster map. This map reflects the cumulative diversity, frequency, & severity of weather & climate events impacting these regions.

Image: Map showing the number of times each state has been part of a billion-dollar weather or climate disaster of any type from 1980-2016. The darker the red, the greater the number of events the state has experienced. Map adapted by Climate.gov from originals provided by NOAA NCEI.

More technical background on the methodology, data sources, and caveats

The U.S. Billion-dollar disaster reports assess the total, direct losses from numerous weather and climate disasters including:  tropical cyclones, floods, drought & heat waves, severe local storms (i.e., tornado, hail, straight-line wind damage), wildfires, crop freeze events, and winter storms.

These loss estimates reflect direct effects of weather and climate events (i.e., not including indirect effects such as subsequent loss of tourism or missed work by employees) and constitute total losses (i.e., both insured and uninsured). The insured and uninsured direct loss components include: physical damage to residential, commercial and government/municipal buildings, material assets within a building, time element losses (i.e., businesses interruption), vehicles, boats, offshore energy platforms, public infrastructure (i.e., roads, bridges, buildings) and agricultural assets (i.e., crops, livestock, timber).

These loss assessments do not take into account losses to natural capital/assets, healthcare related losses, or values associated with loss of life. Only weather and climate disasters which cause losses of ≥ 1 billion-dollars in calculated damage including Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation adjustment are included in this dataset. The following table provides an overview of the metadata behind the data sources used in the U.S. billion-dollar event analysis.

These natural disaster cost assessments require input from a variety of public and private data sources including the Insurance Services Office (ISO) Property Claim Services (PCS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and Presidential Disaster Declaration (PDD) assistance, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) & Risk Management Agency (RMA), among others.

Image: Table of inputs to the NOAA billion-dollar disaster analysis. Screen capture from the NCEI billion-dollar disaster interactive website.

_______________________

Published research on report data sources, methodology, potential bias, and uncertainty modeling

Smith A.B. and J. Matthews, 2015: Quantifying Uncertainty and Variable Sensitivity within the U.S. Billion-dollar Weather and Climate Disaster Cost Estimates. Natural Hazards, 77, 1829-1851

Smith A.B. and R. Katz, 2013: U.S. Billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: Data sources, trends, accuracy and biases. Natural Hazards, 67, 387–410

Additional cited references

NCA, 2014:  http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/report

NCAR, 2016:  https://www2.ucar.edu/atmosnews/news/124082/days-record-breaking-heat-ahead

NCEI, 2017:  https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/datatools/records

Tippet et al., 2016:  http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2016/11/30/science.aah7393.full

U.S. Forest Service, 2015:  https://www.fs.fed.us/about-agency/budget-performance/cost-fire-operations

“Challenge Trump climate denial” UK scientists urge UK Prime Minister May

One hundred leading UK climate research scientists have called on the UK Prime Minister Theresa May to press US President-Elect Donald Trump to accept the realities and risks of climate change.

In a letter to the UK Prime Minister, the scientists call on her to use the United Kingdom’s ‘special relationship’ with the US to persuade Mr Trump: “to acknowledge the scientific evidence about the risks of climate change, to continue to support international action to counter climate change, and to maintain support for world class research and data-gathering on climate change in the United States.”

The full text of the letter follows with the list of supporting scientists:

13 January 2017

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing as members of the climate change research community in the United Kingdom to alert you to what we see as potential threats to, and opportunities for, the national interest arising from the recent elections in the United States of America.

President-Elect Trump has indicated on many occasions, including since his election on 8 November 2016, that he does not fully accept the scientific evidence about the risks of climate change caused by human activities. Several of the individuals nominated for key posts in the President-Elect’s administration, such as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, have made public statements rejecting the evidence for climate change risks. In doing so, the President-Elect and his nominated appointees are disregarding the findings and advice of the leading expert bodies around the world, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the United States National Academy of Sciences.

Furthermore, there have been worrying media reports that the incoming administration may severely weaken climate change research and data-gathering undertaken by federal organisations in the United States. This would diminish the provision of robust and rigorous evidence that is used by  policy-makers and researchers around the world, including in the United Kingdom.

We believe that the United Kingdom must be prepared to respond decisively to these developments. The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of international climate change research and evidence- based policy-making for more than 30 years. Margaret Thatcher was the first world leader to publicly acknowledge the risks of climate change in 1988, and established the Hadley Centre at the Met Office, now internationally renowned for its climate change research.

For many years, climate change researchers in the United States and United Kingdom have worked extensively with each other and with researchers from across the world. We stand ready to support and assist our counterparts in the United States, as collaborators, co-authors and colleagues, in resisting any political attempts to prevent, hamper or interfere with vital research on climate change.

We urge you, as Prime Minister, to use the United Kingdom’s special relationship with the United States, as well as international fora such as the G7 and G20, to press President-Elect Trump and his administration to acknowledge the scientific evidence about the risks of climate change, to continue to support international action to counter climate change, including the Paris Agreement, and to maintain support for world class research and data-gathering on climate change in the United States.

Effective management of the risks of climate change requires all countries to be fully engaged in understanding both their complexities and the options for responding to them. We believe that the United Kingdom could now have a great opportunity to work alongside the United States in strengthening the evidence base, supporting the development of innovative technologies, and leading international cooperation to manage the risks of climate change. We are signing as individuals, rather than as representatives of our employers, but we list our affiliations as evidence of our membership of the climate change research community.

Yours sincerely (in alphabetical order),

Dr. George Adamson (Lecturer in Geography, King’s College London)
Professor Richard Allan (Meteorology Department Head for External Affairs, University of Reading)
Professor Myles R. Allen FInstP (Professor of Geosystem Science, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford)
Professor Chris Armstrong (Professor of Political Theory and Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Southampton)
Professor Nigel Arnell FRGS FRMetS (Professor of Climate System Science, University of Reading) Dr. Scott Archer-Nicholls (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Centre for Atmospheric Science, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge)
Professor John Barrett (Director of the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds)
Professor Paul Bates (Head, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol)
Dr. Stephanie Bates (Research technician in isotope biogeochemistry, School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol)
Dr. Emma Boland (Physical Oceanographer, British Antarctic Survey)
Dr. Michelle Cain (Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Cambridge)
Professor Andy Challinor (Professor of Climate Impacts, University of Leeds)
Professor Mat Collins FRMetS (Exeter Climate Systems, University of Exeter)
Professor Peter Convey (Deputy Leader, Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation Team, British Antarctic Survey)
Professor Declan Conway (Professorial Research Fellow, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science)
Professor Rosalind Cornforth FRMetS (Director, Walker Institute, University of Reading)
Dr. Kevin Cowtan (Research Fellow, University of York)
Professor Peter Cox (Professor of Climate System Dynamics, University of Exeter)
Dr. Elizabeth Cripps (Senior Lecturer in Political Theory, University of Edinburgh)
Dr. Emma Cross (Research Associate, University of Cambridge and British Antarctic Survey)
Professor Richard Dawson (Director of the Centre for Earth Systems Engineering Research,  Newcastle University)
Professor Simon Dietz (Co-Director, ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science)
Professor Paul Ekins OBE FEI (Director, Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London)
Dr. Robert Falkner (Associate Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science)
Professor Sam Fankhauser (Co-Director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science)
Professor Piers Forster FRMetS (Director, Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds)
Professor Eric S. Fraga CPSE (Chemical Engineering, University College London)
Professor Pierre Friedlingstein (Chair, Exeter Climate Systems, University of Exeter)
Professor Hayley Fowler (Professor of Climate Change Impacts, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University)
Professor Timothy J. Foxon (Professor of Sustainability Transitions, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex)
Professor Alberto C. Naveira Garabato (National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton)
Alyssa Gilbert (Director of Policy and Translation, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London)
Dr Marisa Goulden (Lecturer in Climate Change, University of East Anglia and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research),
Professor Andrew Gouldson (Deputy Director, ESRC Centre for Climate Change economics and Policy, University of Leeds)
Professor Dabo Guan (Director of Water Security Research Centre, University of East Anglia)
Professor Joanna Haigh CBE FRS (Co-Director Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London)
Professor Sir Andy Haines (Departments of Social and Environmental Health Research and of Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
Professor Jim Hall FREng (Director of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford)
Professor Jason Hall-Spencer (Professor of Marine Biology, University of Plymouth)
Professor Neil Harris (Co-chair of WCRP/SPARC Centre for Atmospheric Informatics and Emissions Technology, Cranfield University)
Professor Gideon Henderson FRS (Head of Department, Earth Sciences, University of Oxford)
Dr. Sian Henley (NERC Independent Research Fellow, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh)
Dr. Scott Hosking (Climate Scientist, British Antarctic Survey)
Dr. Jo House (Cabot Institute, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol)
Dr Keith Hyams (Associate Professor, University of Warwick)
Dr. Helen L. Johnson (Associate Professor in Climate and Ocean Modelling, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford)
Dr. Dan Jones (Physical Oceanographer, British Antarctic Survey)
Professor Phil Jones FRMetS (Professorial Fellow, Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
Dr. Joakim Kjellsson (Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Atmospheric, Oceanic & Planetary Physics, University of Oxford) Professor Christine S. Lane (Professor of Geography (1993), University of Cambridge)
Professor Alice Larkin FInstP (Director of Tyndall Manchester, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Manchester)
Professor Corinne Le Quéré FRS (Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia and Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research)
Professor Simon Lewis (University College London)
Professor Dan Lunt (Professor of Climate Science, University of Bristol)
Dr Niall Mac Dowell (Clean Fossil and Bioenergy Research Group and Lecturer in Energy and Environmental Technology and Policy, Imperial College London)
Professor Catriona McKinnon (Director, Leverhulme Programme in Climate Justice, University of Reading)
Professor Mark Maslin FRGS FRSA (Director, London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, University College London)
Dr. Elaine Mawbey (Postdoctoral Research Assistant, School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol)
Dr Dann Mitchell (Lecturer in Climate Change, University of Bristol)
Professor Hugh Montgomery FRCP FRGS FRSB FRI FFICM, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine, University College London)
Dr. Twila Moon (Lecturer in Cryospheric Sciences, Bristol Glaciology Centre, School of Geographical Sciences, University or Bristol)
Professor Stephen de Mora CChem FRSC FRSB FRSA (Chief Executive, Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
Professor Richard Morris (Professor in Medical Statistics, University of Bristol)
Professor Andy Morse FRMetS FRGS (Professor of Climate Impacts, University of Liverpool)
Professor David Newbery FBA CBE (Director, Cambridge Energy Policy Research Group),
Professor Dan Osborn (Chair of Human Ecology, Department of Earth Sciences, University College London)
Professor Timothy Osborn (Director of Research, Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia)
Professor Jouni Paavola (Co-Director of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds)
Professor Tim Palmer CBE FRS (Royal Society Research Professor, Department of Physics, University of Oxford)
Professor Richard Pancost (Professor of Biogeochemistry and Director of the Cabot Institute, University of Bristol)
Professor Martin Parry OBE (Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London)
Professor Paul N. Pearson (School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University)
Professor Arthur Petersen (Professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy, University College London)
Professor Nicholas Pidgeon MBE (Professor of Environmental Risk, Cardiff University)
Professor Raymond Pierrehumbert (Halley Professor of Physics, University of Oxford)
Dr. Jeff Price (Senior Researcher, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia)
Professor Chris Rapley CBE (Professor of Climate Science, University College London)
Dr. Tim Rayner (Research Fellow, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia)
Professor Dave Reay (Assistant Principal, University of Edinburgh)
Professor Rosalind Rickaby (Professor in Biogoechemistry, Associate Head of Department for Research, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford)
Dr. Maria Russo (Research Scientist, National Centre for Atmospheric Science/Cambridge Centre for Climate Science, University of Cambridge)
Professor Daniela Schmidt FRSB (School of Earth Sciences, Cabot Institute, University of Bristol)
Professor Andrea Sella (Department of Chemistry, University College London)
Professor Ted Shepherd FRS (Grantham Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading)
Professor Keith P. Shine FRS (Regius Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science, University of Reading)
Dr. Emily Shuckburgh FRMetS OBE (Deputy-Head of Polar Oceans, British Antarctic Survey)
Professor Henry Shue (Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford)
Professor Martin Siegert FRSE (Co-Director, Grantham Institute  –  Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London)
Dr. Thomas Smith (Lecturer in Physical & Environmental Geography, Kings College London)
Dr. David Stainforth (Associate Professorial Research Fellow, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science)
Dr. Julia K. Steinberger (Associate Professor in Ecological Economics, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds)
Professor Lindsay C. Stringer (Professor in Environment and Development, University of Leeds)
Professor Phil Taylor (Director, National Centre for Energy Systems Integration)
Dr. Carol Turley OBE (Senior NERC Knowledge Exchange Open Fellow, Plymouth Marine Laboratory)
Professor Paul Valdes (Director, NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership, University of Bristol).
Bob Ward FGS FRGS (Policy and Communications Director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science),
Professor Rachel Warren (Professor of Global Change and Environmental Biology, Tyndall Climate Change Centre, University of East Anglia)
Professor Jim Watson (Director, UK Energy Research Centre)
Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh (School of Psychology and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Cardiff University)
Dr. Phillip Williamson (Associate Fellow, University of East Anglia)

4th International Conference on Energy & Meteorology (ICEM)

WEMC_logo_100

The 4th ICEM will take place from 27-29 June 2017 in Bari, Italy.

It offers a unique chance for the energy industry and the meteorological sector to connect, exchange knowledge, and work together. At ICEM 2017, through targeted workshops, panel discussions with international experts, and brainstorming sessions, you will be able to plant the seeds for new business opportunities and interact with an international community of energy specialists, economists, scientists, and policymakers working at the thriving nexus of energy with weather and climate. ICEM 2017 will provide a premium international platform with excellent networking opportunities as well as a source of the state-of-the-art in the science, policy, planning and operations in energy and meteorology.

The World Energy & Meteorology Council (WEMC) is a non-profit organisation devoted to promoting and enhancing the interaction between the energy industry and the weather, climate and broader environmental sciences community. The primary goal is to enable improved sustainability, resilience and efficiency of energy systems under ever changing weather and climate for the greatest benefit of all people. Working together with a large number of stakeholders, WEMC organizes and implements recommendations from the International Conferences on Energy and Meteorology.

For further details of ICEM 2017, visit: www.wemcouncil.org/wp/icem2017/

Natural catastrophe highest for four years partly due to climate change, says Munich Re

By the Editor

A number of powerful storms helped make 2016 the costliest 12 months for natural catastrophe losses in the last four years, according to Munich Re, the specialist in natural catastrophe risk insurance, writes Ian Harper.

According to Peter Höppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit: “There are now many indications that certain events – such as persistent weather systems or storms bringing torrential rain and hail – are more likely to occur in certain regions as a result of climate change.”

The reinsurer said that the high number of flood events, including river flooding and flash floods, was exceptional and accounted for 34% of overall losses, compared with an average of 21% over the past 10 years.

2016 losses totalled US$175bn, two-thirds more than in 2015, and very nearly as high as the figure for 2012 (US$180bn). The share of uninsured losses – the so-called protection or insurance gap – remained substantial at around 70%. Almost 30% of the losses, some US$50bn, were insured.

Board of Management member Torsten Jeworre, said: “The high percentage of uninsured losses, especially in emerging markets and developing countries, remains a concern. Greater insurance density is important, as it helps to alleviate the financial consequences of a catastrophe for more people. With its risk knowledge, the insurance industry would in fact be able to bear a much greater portion of such unpredictable risks.”

Key natural catastroph figures of 2016:

•    Both overall losses and insured losses were above the inflation-adjusted average for the past ten years (US$ 154bn and 45.1bn respectively).
•    Taking very small events out of the equation, 750 relevant loss events such as, storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves and earthquakes were recorded in the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE database. That is significantly above the 10-year average of 590.
•    Some 8,700 lives were sadly lost as a result of these natural catastrophes, far fewer at least than in 2015 (25,400), yet within the ten-year average (60,600). The past year was thus the year with the fewest fatalities (after 2014, with 8,050 fatalities) in 30 years (1986: 8,600).
•    The high number of flood events, including river flooding and flash floods, was exceptional and accounted for 34% of overall losses, compared with an average of 21% over the past ten years.

The costliest natural catastrophes of the year occurred in Asia. Aside from two earthquakes on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu in April (overall losses US$ 31bn; proportion of insured losses just under 20%), there there were devastating floods in China in June and July (overall losses US$ 20bn; only some 2% of which were insured).

North America was hit by more loss occurrences in 2016 than in any other year since 1980, with 160 events recorded. The year’s most serious event here was Hurricane Matthew. Its greatest impact was in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, which was still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake. Matthew killed around 550 people in Haiti, and also caused serious damage on the east coast of the USA. Overall losses totalled US$ 10.2bn, with over a third of this figure insured.

North America was also impacted by other extreme weather hazards, including wildfires in the Canadian town of Fort McMurray in May, and major floods in the southern US states in summer. In Canada, the mild winter with less snow than usual, and the spring heatwaves and droughts which followed, were the principal causes of the devastating wildfires that hit the oil-sand-producing region of Alberta, generating overall losses of US$ 4bn. More than two-thirds of this figure was insured. In August, floods in Louisiana and other US states following persistent rain triggered losses totalling US$ 10bn, around a quarter of which was insured.

There was a series of storms in Europe in late May and early June. Torrential rain triggered numerous flash floods, particularly in Germany, and there was major flooding on the River Seine in and around Paris. Overall losses totalled some US$ 6bn (approximately €5.4bn), around half of which was insured.

Peter Höppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit, said: “A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change. Of course, individual events themselves can never be attributed directly to climate change. But there are now many indications that certain events – such as persistent weather systems or storms bringing torrential rain and hail – are more likely to occur in certain regions as a result of climate change.”

XL Group expects over US$245 million in catastrophe losses

XL Group, the global property, casualty and specialist insurer headquartered in Ireland, expects over US$245 million in catastrophe losses incurred from natural catastrophes during the fourth quarter of 2016.

The company’s preliminary estimate is split approximately US$125 million in the insurance segment and US$120 million in the reinsurance segment. The total amount is before tax and net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums.

Losses contributing to the overall estimate include around US$130 million in net losses from Hurricane Matthew, which hit the US and the Caribbean.

Also included in the estimate is the US$75 million in net losses from the magnitude 7.8 New Zealand earthquake in November.

The remaining catastrophe losses were the result of a number of smaller events during the fourth quarter and the rest of 2016.

XL Group said it may revise the estimates, which could substantially differ from the actual losses. The insurer will announce its fourth quarter and full 2016 results on February 1.

In October, XL Group announced an operating net income of US$122.5 million for the third quarter of 2016 and P&C underwriting profit of US$167 million.

Natural catastrophe pre-tax losses net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums increased to US$97.4 million from US$30.8 million in the same quarter in 2015.

Integration costs related to the XL Group’s merger with the Catlin Group amounted to about US$54.5 million in the third quarter.

Businesses and investors urge Trump not to ignore climate change

by the Editor

A letter released on Tuesday contains signatures from 530 companies, including Campbell Soup and Johnson & Johnson, urging President-elect Donald Trump to take action to fight climate change.

The move comes at the start of Senate hearings to confirm the President-elect’s cabinet nominees, who are opposed to existing climate policies, including the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to cut coal power plant emissions.

The letter contains signatures from roughly 200 more companies and investors than when initially submitted following the November election, including Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson and the New York State Retirement Fund. The previous plea was signed by companies such as Monsanto, eBay, Levi Strauss and Staples.

The full letter follows and can be seen at: http://www.lowcarbonusa.org/

Dear President-elect Trump, President Obama, Members of the US Congress, and Global Leaders:

We, the undersigned members in the business and investor community of the United States, re-affirm our deep commitment to addressing climate change through the implementation of the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy. Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness. We pledge to do our part, in our own operations and beyond, to realize the Paris Agreement’s commitment of a global economy that limits global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

We call on our elected US leaders to strongly support:

1 Continuation of low-carbon policies to allow the US to meet or exceed our promised national commitment and to increase our nation’s future ambition
2 Investment in the low carbon economy at home and abroad in order to give financial decision-makers clarity and boost the confidence of investors worldwide
3 Continued US participation in the Paris Agreement, in order to provide the long-term direction needed to keep global temperature rise below 2°C

Implementing the Paris Agreement will enable and encourage businesses and investors to turn the billions of dollars in existing low-carbon investments into the trillions of dollars the world needs to bring clean energy and prosperity to all.

We support leaders around the world as they seek to implement the Paris Agreement and leverage this historic opportunity to tackle climate change.

ENDS