2011 the most expensive year for natural disasters in history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:42 PM GMT on July 14, 2011

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An exceptional accumulation of very severe natural catastrophes, including earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, tornadoes and flooding in the U.S., and flooding in Australia and New Zealand, make 2011 the highest-ever loss year on record, even after the first half-year, said re-insurance giant Munich Re in a press release this week. The $265 billion in economic losses accumulated this year exceeds the previous record year, 2005, which had $220 billion in damage (mostly due to $125 billion in damage from Hurricane Katrina.) Unlike 2005, this year's losses have been headlined by two huge earthquakes--the March 11 quake in Japan ($210 billion) and the February 22 quake in New Zealand ($20 billion.) But with the Northern Hemisphere's hurricane season just beginning, this year's record losses may see a significant boost from hurricanes.


Figure 1. Stunned survivors survey the destruction left by the EF-4 Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado of April. With a price tag estimated at $2 billion, this was the single most expensive tornado of all-time. The record stood only three weeks, being surpassed by the $3 billion in damage from the Joplin Missouri, tornado. The two tornado outbreaks that spawned these tornadoes rank as the globe's 3rd and 5th most destructive natural disasters so far this year. Image from an anonmous posting to Twitter.

Climate change and damage from weather-related disasters
In an interview with MSNBC, Peter Hoppe, who runs Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center, said that while the damage trend for earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions is fairly stable, damage from severe weather events is on the upswing, even after factoring in increases in population and wealth. He cited natural events such as La Niña and El Niño as factors in some of the damaging weather events, but added that warming temperatures appear to be adding a layer "on top" of that natural variability. In particular, he noted that the floods this January in Australia--that nation's most expensive natural disaster of all time--occurred when ocean temperatures off the coast were at record warm levels. That meant "more evaporation and higher potential for these extreme downpours", and "it can only be explained by global warming."


Figure 2. The five most expensive natural disasters of 2011, as estimated by Munich Re.

However, the there is a lot of controversy on whether economic losses due to weather-related disasters is increasing due to climate change. A 2010 paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by Netherlands researcher Laurens Bouwer titled, "Have disaster losses increased due to anthropogenic climate change?", looked at 22 disaster loss studies in various parts of the world. All of the studies showed an increase in damages from weather-related disasters in recent decades. The big question is, how much of this increase in damage was due to increases in population, and the fact people are getting wealthier, and thus have more stuff to get damaged? Fourteen of the 22 studies concluded that there were no trends in damage after correcting for increases in wealth and population, while eight of the studies did find upward trends even after such corrections. In all 22 studies, increases in wealth and population were the "most important drivers for growing disaster losses."

Bouwer's review of these 22 disaster loss studies was critiqued this year by Neville Nicholls of the School of Geography and Environmental Science of Montash University, Australia. His analysis, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, notes that Bouwer's study of damage losses did not include the impact of improvements in building codes and weather forecasting. We can expect both factors to have significantly reduced damages due to storms in recent years. Nicholls concludes, "The absence of an upward trend in normalized losses may be due to a balance between reduced vulnerability (from improved weather forecasting and building techniques) and increased frequency or intensity of weather hazards." In his reply to Nicholls' comments, Bouwer states that Nicholls "provides no support that these factors have actually contributed to a substantial reduction in losses over the period of the last decades."

Jeff Masters

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Quoting CarolinaJim:

"If you don't stand up for something, you'll fall for anything."

That one is for you, Mike.

Try refraining from attacking others from disagreeing with you, and your voice will be heard.
please edit your quote from me, as i basically immediately edited mine lacking a removal option... my initial reactionary statement had a flaw, he had 'contributed', and i'll take it as the 'balance' i sought seeking no communication debacle to follow.
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Quoting twincomanche:
Mostly true.


Yes!
We can revive Enron and hand over the DOE to them.
We can get a company in China to handle our DOC.
We can turn immigration control over to a company in Mexico.
We can give the FCC to AT&T or possibly even to Rupert Murdoch.
Surely a company in India can handle our environmental issues or, perhaps, just let BP do it.
Archer, Daniel, Midland already wants to be the distributor of the world's food supply. Let them have it!

There! That solves most of the problems. Do you have any further suggestions? Certainly the Koch brothers need to do something that controls our lives. What do you suggest for them? We must remain in a globalized economy, for what else makes better sense than to ship raw materials 1,000's of miles and then ship the semi-finished/finished products another 1,000s of miles back to us. ..... I am soooo glad that you have all of the answers for us. Why are we so stupid as to not have privatized everything before?

On a weather related subject, it is still hot and dry in Texas and it is getting hotter and drier. What company can you suggest to fix that for us. I'll pay my dollar.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4737
Does anyone know why the NHC keeps yellow invest areas when they are 0%?? If it is 0, why bother putting it on the map anyway. Waste of time and resources.
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Ma-On does look to be headed towards Japan (poor folks) but the current plot calls for weakening down to Cat 2 nearing landfall.......Small consolation and lets hope that forecast (or lower) holds true.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9074
Quoting AussieStorm:

LOL. This Blog is about Multi-Billion Dollar Natural Disasters. The flooding in New Zealand wasn't Multi-Billion. Maybe a few Million.

Dr. Masters never said the NZ flooding was multi-billion. Or multi-million, for that matter. I'm afraid I'm missing yourt p
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


See, that states 2011 is not the record for disasters.

Well, it also states that 2011 is barely half over. Give it some time...
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Dr. Masters has never been big on speculation.

None of the models are showing anything significant and none of the models are being consistent with either area. Once the yellow circles come out I am sure Dr. Masters will have a commentary on it. In the meantime there are many other tangible topics occurring across the globe that are significant.

Wunderground's best times were when there were several other active user blogs that discussed the tropics 24/7. Dr. Masters blog in those days was considered a place of last resort as it typically featured trolls and extremists, nothing different from what we see today. Difference is that there is no place else of interest to go so everyone remains here.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5324
Quoting TomTaylor:
Agreed.

It does appear more and more that as of late, the topics of this blog are global warming and climate change based, rather than tropical weather based. His posts by themselves are fine, but the never ending debate which follows are ridiculously redundant and hostile.

Like you said, it's his blog, and I respect that, but perhaps he should consider changing the title of the blog.

...and if he does end up doing that, I can assure you I would leave this blog in an instant. The gw/cc debate is one of the most pathetic debates I've ever known and people can't even see my comments on this blog so I have absolutely no reason to stay here.

If that did happen, This blog would be left for people to fight over AGW and trolls. I for sure won't be coming here anymore.
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Quoting ncstorm:
We all know the models have been dropping and then developing the SE coast storm, the setup itself is complicated so thats why you have inconsistency from the models..as I said before the ingredients are there for this to develop, its just a matter of wait and see
Doesn't contradict Doc's comment, though. Besides, it's pretty much always just "wait and see" around here in July....

I miss Ike.
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.
3 quakes, interesting.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Why are pple so reactionary? He didn't endorse it; he simply quoted what different groups are saying. I found it pretty intereting that 14 / 22 studies found no correlation....
Every time he does a gw post we see the same reaction in the comments. His blog itself doesn't directly bug me, but the reaction, when he posts about gw, does.
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127. MahFL
Once we get a TD in the Atlantic, everyone will say its a Cat 5 headig for NOLA, lol.
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The 2 models the NHC mainly looks at are the GFDL and GFS. You're right all models have some type of error involved as they don't consider the short term atmospheric changes.
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Good grief...*sigh* If Dr. M. posts about GW then it is free game for the blog....right? After all, it is his blog...That being said, I ususally check out when the GW discussion heats up. Would I get banned for posting the beating of a dead horse?
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124. MahFL
I think the carbon tax is only designed to slow down global warming a tiny bit, not stop it......
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I got to admit, I was sort of bummed Dr. M didn't mention Ma-on, not that I didn't thoroughly enjoy his current blog entry.

Latest: eyewall 3/4 of the way built, clearly becoming better defined.


Member Since: October 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1267
Quoting P451:





It would seem the tropics are no longer Dr. M's chief concern.

His blog, that's fine, if this is where he has steered his career that's absolute great, but perhaps remove the Tropical Weather Blog declaration and convert it to Climate Change Blog.

People come here looking for Tropical Weather discussion and nine times out of ten now find themselves ambushed by an AGW debate.

Agreed.

It does appear more and more that as of late, the topics of this blog are global warming and climate change based, rather than tropical weather based. His posts by themselves are fine, but the never ending debate which follows are ridiculously redundant and hostile.

Like you said, it's his blog, and I respect that, but perhaps he should consider changing the title of the blog.

...and if he does end up doing that, I can assure you I would leave this blog in an instant. The gw/cc debate is one of the most pathetic debates I've ever known and people can't even see my comments on this blog so I have absolutely no reason to stay here.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

If Dr. Masters did discuss Ma-On then it would be fine. This is a Tropical Weather Blog. Not AGW/CC.
Don't worry, once we see some action out there, that's all people will talk about here.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Why are pple so reactionary? He didn't endorse it; he simply quoted what different groups are saying. I found it pretty intereting that 14 / 22 studies found no correlation....


I didnt say he endorse it, I just say the words were mention which will bring the AGW bloggers out in droves..its like that line in the kevin costner movie..if you build it, they will come, in this case though, if you say it, they will come
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15219
Can someone tell me which models are reliable? I thought they all had a flaw in them. No model is perfect. Even Elle.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Most of the debate so far today has been by people saying they don't want to discuss AGW.... Frankly, the only real ongoing tropical event is Ma-on, which I do wish the Doc would discuss in more detail. But then we'd get pple complaining that Ma-on is not in the ATL, so why are we wasting time blogging about it...


If Dr. Masters did discuss Ma-On then it would be fine. This is a Tropical Weather Blog. Not AGW/CC.
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Quoting jasonweatherman2011:
the wave at 45W is moving wnw and we better watch it!!
its becoming like groundhog day here we go again
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Quoting BahaHurican:
You rang?

Hey, I am the one saying nothing likely before the final decade of the month... u know, like after 21 July???? IMO things still not quite in place... the 1032!!!! mb high is still sitting pretty low over the MDR, and until that lifts north [which I expect it to start doing sometime over the next 2 weeks] much of the Twave activity that usually sparks stuff will not make it. The same high is adversely impacting what comes off the US coast.


Actually I was alluding to our previous discussion..LOL..but its all good..and yeah, after next week, I would expect to see more activity for our hurricane season which unfortunately wont be good outcomes for our island and conus friends..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15219
Quoting P451:





It would seem the tropics are no longer Dr. M's chief concern.

His blog, that's fine, if this is where he has steered his career that's absolute great, but perhaps remove the Tropical Weather Blog declaration and convert it to Climate Change Blog.

People come here looking for Tropical Weather discussion and nine times out of ten now find themselves ambushed by an AGW debate.

Most of the debate so far today has been by people saying they don't want to discuss AGW.... Frankly, the only real ongoing tropical event is Ma-on, which I do wish the Doc would discuss in more detail. But then we'd get pple complaining that Ma-on is not in the ATL, so why are we wasting time blogging about it...

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Quoting BahaHurican:
IMO ANTI-AGW bloggers are skewing the blog. The blog is NOT about AGW... it's about Record Natural Disasters. Some pple need to 1) read what's really there 2) get off their soapboxes.

IMO I think you need to read this blog again.
I quote "Climate change and damage from weather-related disasters
In an interview with MSNBC, Peter Hoppe, who runs Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center, said that while the damage trend for earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions is fairly stable, damage from severe weather events is on the upswing, even after factoring in increases in population and wealth. He cited natural events such as La Nia and El Nio as factors in some of the damaging weather events, but added that warming temperatures appear to be adding a layer "on top" of that natural variability. In particular, he noted that the floods this January in Australia--that nation's most expensive natural disaster of all time--occurred when ocean temperatures off the coast were at record warm levels. That meant "more evaporation and higher potential for these extreme downpours", and "it can only be explained by global warming."
It can be explained.... It's called La Nia
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(Very) active season in the cards when the lid comes off in a few weeks.

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Quoting ncstorm:


Dr. Masters mentioned climate change..pretty much the blog is screwed today..
Why are pple so reactionary? He didn't endorse it; he simply quoted what different groups are saying. I found it pretty intereting that 14 / 22 studies found no correlation....
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Quoting P451:
I hope this blog entry isn't meant to further an AGW agenda.

To include earthquakes in such a debate would be nothing more but an attempt to skew numbers to fit an argument.

Removing those where does 2011 rank in weather related disasters?

Regarding the disaster and the price tag are we taking into account an increased population and an increased cost in materials?

Are we to compare a dollar amount in 2011 dollars to a 1911 year in 1911 dollars and proclaim "2011 was more expensive. Global warming folks!"

Can we compare a death toll from 1911 to a death toll in 2011 and proclaim "More folks died in 2011 disasters than 1911 disasters. Global warming folks!"

IMO ANTI-AGW bloggers are skewing the blog. The blog is NOT about AGW... it's about Record Natural Disasters. Some pple need to 1) read what's really there 2) get off their soapboxes.
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Anyone notice 3 shallow quakes about 1700 km (1063 miles) W of Lebu, Bio-Bio, Chile. Right on the ridge line.





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Quoting ncstorm:


Paging Baha??
You rang?

Hey, I am the one saying nothing likely before the final decade of the month... u know, like after 21 July???? IMO things still not quite in place... the 1032!!!! mb high is still sitting pretty low over the MDR, and until that lifts north [which I expect it to start doing sometime over the next 2 weeks] much of the Twave activity that usually sparks stuff will not make it. The same high is adversely impacting what comes off the US coast.
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103. jpsb
Quoting TaylorSelseth:
The Atlantic is quite and Few seem to care about Ma-On, even though it looks like it's going to bulls-eye Japan.
Poor Japan, they are having a very bad year.
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Quoting twincomanche:
MORE CONTROLS! That's what we need. More regulation! That'll fix everything.


NO! NO! We must PRIVATIZE EVERYTHING! That is the ONLY solution to EVERY problem that we could ever possibly face.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4737
Quoting TaylorSelseth:


Har, Har, Har! Nice Red Herring.

You Aussies should be more concerned that most about GW.

There ain't going to be many of us left by then, we'd all gone hungry and eaten each other by then cause of a Carbon tax which is meant to stop AGW.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Great. 2 disaster years in a row? I have a feeling this might not be the prettiest decade...
Reminds me of the depression years, with bad economic conditions and extreme weather.... between 1925 and 1940 we had some interesting extremes of wx in the area...

Quite interestingly, we are getting a strong rain shower here now. Nothing much showing on the satellite... a lowlying cloud or 2...
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Didn't you know, Its called Global Warming. The Earth is on fire and will burn up in 4 billion years.


Har, Har, Har! Nice Red Herring.

You Aussies should be more concerned that most about GW.
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Quoting jpsb:
I thought this blog was about topical weather?
The Atlantic is quite and Few seem to care about Ma-On, even though it looks like it's going to bulls-eye Japan.
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Quoting TaylorSelseth:
I am not liking the look of the GFS this morning. An upper level high is developing in the midsection of the country and that is going to bring a week of +90F temperatures and +75F dew points to the Upper Midwest. The GFS has the 25C dew point line going as far north as WINNIPEG!!!

I thought we were supposed to have a cool summer this year.

Didn't you know, Its called Global Warming. The Earth is on fire and will burn up in 4 billion years.
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Quoting Hurrykane:
How many here look at the NAM for cyclogenesis...raise your hand


Isn't the NAM an entity of the GFS..in fact, I thought I read on here before that a lot of the weather models are components of the GFS
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15219
I am not liking the look of the GFS this morning. An upper level high is developing in the midsection of the country and that is going to bring a week of +90F temperatures and +75F dew points to the Upper Midwest. The GFS has the 25C dew point line going as far north as WINNIPEG!!!

I thought we were supposed to have a cool summer this year.
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Quoting BoroDad17:
Considering Dr. Master's listed that the earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused 210 Billion in damages, and the earthquake in New Zealand added 20 Billion. The two of these events contributed to 86.7% of the damages so far this year.

He didn't say that earthquakes are due to global warming, but juxtaposing a paragraph on the extreme damage caused by natural events this year with a discussion on the studies of damage caused by weather which COULD be associated with AGW is a subtle device to lean the reader towards the position that things ARE getting worse and are a result of AGW. To be fair I thought the discussion on AGW caused damages was pretty fair and honest, a product of a scientist, not an activist.

I will be honest, I am a skeptic of AGW. I do agree that temperatures have risen, but I am not convinced it is human caused, nor am I convinced CO2 is a reason for higher temperatures. Furthermore, even IF AGW was real, the measures the AGW activists would have the US/EU take would devastate the economies of those countries for next to nothing in benefits, since no one else in the world has even hinted at participating.
Agreed. I am surprised Dr. Masters didn't mention anything about my govt bringing in a Carbon Tax.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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