Thursday, January 26, 2017

Weather Disasters Were Big In 2016

One of the multi-billion dollar weather disasters in 2016
was severe European flooding in late May and early June.
Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images via Weather Underground
Now that the nation seems to have entered a break from a one or two month long stretch of seemingly constant big storms, let's look at weather disasters from 2016.

According to the Category 6 Blog by Jeff Masters and Bob Henson at Weather Underground, the world in 2016 experienced 31 disasters that caused a least $1 billion in damages.

That's the fourth highest number of such disasters since people started keeping detailed track of these calamaties back in 1990.

The monetary figures for these disasters are inflation-adjusted, so the reason for the uptick is not that everything is more expensive.  The expensive year of 2016 also appears to be part of an upward trend in enormous disasters.

Some people might be quick to blame global warming for the uptick in terrible, expensive disasters, and climate change could well be part of the mix.

But there are other big factors as well. The disaster statistics come from the Aon Benfield 2016 Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report. 

The report says:

"It can be concluded that there have been an increase in both annual and individual weather disaster costs in the last nearly four decades. It can reasonably be assumed that the combination of effects from climate change, more intense weather events, greater coastal exposures and population migration patters are all equal contributors to the loss trend."

The bright side to the report is that deaths from big disasters was smaller than most years. Natural disasters, including earthquakes, killed about 8,250 people worldwide in 2016, compared with a yearly average of around 71,000.

Scouring through the details of the 2016 disaster report and Masters' and Hensons' post:

"Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurance firm, put global losses from natural disaster at $175 billion in 2016, compared to $7.1 billion in 2015. the high losses in 2016 were driven by increasingly powerful storms and an exceptionally high number of severe floods, with flooding causing more than a third of all losses, well above the 10 -year average of 21%."

The most expensive weather disaster in 2016 was flooding in China's Yangtze Basin, around the first of August, which caused about $28 billion in damage and left 475 people dead.

Fifteen of the world's 31 billion dollar weather disasters occured in the United States. Most of the disasters were floods, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, but drought in different parts of the nation contibuted to the total.

The death toll from all the billion dollar American disasters in 2016 was 106. Very bad, but not as bad as it could have been, considering the losses involved.

Of course, we don't know whether 2017 will follow the upward trend in expensive disasters. I don't even know yet if this month's slew of California storms, or the tornadoes in the South caused damages of a billion dollars or more.

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