Have Insurers Begun to Detect Climate Change in Storm Damage?


2011-01-11 Scientific American, Evan Lehmann and Climatewire
It’s likely that the number of strong storms involving rain, snow and hail is also rising because of warming temperatures, not just urban sprawl and expanding development

STORM DAMAGE:  Insurers believe that weather patterns may already be changing in some parts of the U.S. as a result of global warming, resulting in more and stronger storms

STORM DAMAGE: Insurers believe that weather patterns may already be changing in some parts of the U.S. as a result of global warming, resulting in more and stronger storms Image: Photograph by Al Camardella Jr., courtesy Flickr

The United States was struck by more natural disasters last year than ever before, with 247 blizzards, thunderstorms and floods accounting for a record level of frequency partly attributable to climate change, according to a major reinsurance company.

About 150 of the events were rainstorms and snowstorms, showcasing the rising number of meteorological disasters that are pelting the United States. In 1980, for example, when total disasters barely reached 60, the number of damaging storms was just over 50.

Nearly 190 Americans died in thunderstorms, blizzards and floods last year, all of which cost the country tens of billions of dollars in damages. The price to insurance companies for thunderstorm damage alone amounted to more than $9 billion, underscoring a 500 percent rise in the average yearly loss from that peril since 1980.

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