Aon Units Release Global Climate/Catastrophe Report

Two Aon subsidiaries, Aon Re Global and Impact Forecasting, LLC, have released a report on 2004’s natural catastrophes, describing “a year of freakish weather patterns, ending with the worst natural disaster in modern times: the December 26th tsunami.”

The report notes that “unusually violent weather throughout the U.S. and the Pacific Rim made 2004 one of the most active years for natural phenomena in recent memory.” The tsunamis alone “killed more than 159,000 people across Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India and obliterated villages and seaside resorts in ten countries across southern Asia and eastern Africa” said the report. “By contrast, the worst natural disaster in 2003 was the Bam, Iran earthquake in which 26,271 people perished.”

It also confirms that the 2004 hurricane season in the U.S. was among the most active on record. “The western Atlantic produced 15 named storms and 9 hurricanes, which is above the norm of 10 tropical systems and 6 hurricanes. The United States and Caribbean Islands experienced a rough August and September, with 6 major hurricanes making landfall in 2004, well above the average normal landfall of 1-2 storms. By contrast, 2003 saw only two of seven hurricanes making landfall. It had been half a century since Florida sustained hits by three destructive hurricanes in rapid succession. In 1950, hurricanes Baker and Easy made landfall in or near Florida within a six-day period.”

The report also found that the U.S. tornado season was especially active in 2004, due at least in part to the tropical storms that battered the southern part of the country. The higher-than- usual number of hurricanes helped to spawn some of the 1,722 tornadoes in the United States in 2004, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. That’s up from the previous year’s total of 1,376. A normal tornado season yields an average of 1,200 tornadoes.

“Of the 1,722 storms in 2004, 20 were so-called ‘killer’ tornadoes, resulting in 36 deaths. That’s down from 2003’s 23 ‘killer’ storms and 54 fatalities. Both years were below the normal count of 25 ‘killer’ storms resulting in an average of 54 deaths nationwide.”

Aon’s report indicates that at least one category showed some improvement. There were fewer typhoons than normal in the western Pacific Ocean. That region generated 21 typhoons in the 2004 tropical season, lower than the average 27. In 2003 there were 17 typhoons. Japan was struck by seven tropical systems, four of which were typhoons. This represents the most typhoon landfalls in Japan since 1982.

More general findings indicated that the global climate last year “was warmer and wetter than normal, which is a change from previous years, where warmer but drier than normal conditions existed. Precipitation amounts were also higher than normal for the first time in four years. Though many areas still experienced drought conditions, some locations received an overabundance of rain, leading to severe flooding that killed thousands of people this last year, primarily across Southeast Asia and through the Caribbean Sea.”

While the report, which is issued at the beginning of each year, doesn’t discuss the recent heavy rains in Southern California, they would seem to be evidence of an ongoing trend. The study does point out that a number of “record-breaking natural disasters” occurred last year “many of which broke long-standing records. Haiti and the Dominican Republic were hit with two massive flooding events in 2004, killing over 5,000 people in May and September combined. Monsoon flooding across Bangladesh, India, and China claimed more than 1,900 lives from late June through early August. Landslides and flooding from successive tropical systems killed thousands of people in late November in the Philippines.”