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Below-Average U.S. Losses Lead Relatively Mild Year for Catastrophes.

Byline: Bonnie Cavanaugh, PropertyCasualty360

The year 2013 was not a good example of natural catastrophes caused by climate change, as the extreme weather events that did occur in this rather mild year--such as high-temperature spikes and record precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere--could have happened without climate change, according to Peter Hoppe, head of geo risks research/corporate climate center at Munich Re.

Hoppe's comment came in response to queries during Munich Re's webinar, 2013 Natural Catastrophe Year in Review, presented jointly with the Insurance Information Institute. He further says that the company's view of climate change--it has indeed been caused by a rise in greenhouse gasses over the past 10 years--is based on its own research and that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its September 2013 assessment report.

Yet Hoppe did not attribute the nation's current deep freeze to climate change. The Polar Vortex creating dramatically low subzero temperatures across the country, while unusual, is considered a 10- or 20-year event and not an indicator of any change in overall global climate. It also does not forebode a major influx of insured losses.

"It's very cold out there and normal life is not possible in many places, but there are not much in damages," Hoppe says. Agricultural insurance could be affected if the severe cold trend lasts "very long" and affects spring planting.

However, what remains to be seen is if a prolonged deep freeze due to the Polar Vortex causes any pipe freezing, either for commercial or personal risks, and what losses may occur from those events, notes Carl Hedde, head of risk accumulation, Munich Reinsurance America Inc.

Overall, the global natural-catastrophe outlook for 2013 was marked by lower-than-average windstorm activity in the Western Hemisphere and increased typhoon activity in the eastern part of the world. Compared to the long-term, 2013 was below average in both loss of life and assets, the experts say.

Worldwide insured losses came to $31 billion, with the United States leading the pack, even though U.S. losses were relatively low: insured losses in the U.S. for 2013 totaled $12.8 billion, which experts say is "far below" the 2000-to-2012 average loss of $29.4 billion (reported in 2013 Dollars). That includes 128 natural catastrophes for the year, accounting for 207 recorded deaths. Just nine of those events were considered Significant Natural Catastrophes, meaning they accounted for at least $1 billion in economic losses and/or 50 fatalities.

Germany was the second largest contributor to worldwide insured losses, with $6.6 billion. A chuck of those losses is due to two severe hailstorms in the southwest and northern areas of the country within two days, accounting for insured losses of $3.7 billion--the largest insured loss event in 2013.

The deadliest worldwide catastrophe belongs to the Philippines, which is still reeling from super typhoon Haiyan. The storm produced record wind speeds, destroyed more than half a million homes and left over 6,000 people dead. Many people are still missing.
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Publication:Property and Casualty 360
Date:Jan 7, 2014
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