Extreme Weather Hits U.S. Hard: Munich Re

March 4, 2015

Over the past years, persistent extreme weather conditions have triggered severe natural catastrophes and caused losses in the billions. There is a growing number of scientific studies that suggest an increase in quasi-stationary weather patterns and their correlation with the considerable rise in temperature in the Arctic due to global warming.

The current “Topics Geo 2014” publication, with its in-depth analyses and vast trove of data on the natural catastrophes of the past year, addresses this topic.

“In North America during the winter of 2014, a resilient ridge of high pressure established itself over the northeastern Pacific Ocean, creating unusually warm and dry conditions that extended from California northward to Alaska,” said Mark Bove, senior research meteorologist for Munich Re America. “However, the ridge also helped to destabilize the arctic polar vortex, sending frigid air southward over the eastern two-thirds of North America for most of the winter.”

“Insured winter storm losses in the United States in 2014 were the highest in eight years, at $2.3 billion, while insured losses due to severe thunderstorm events exceeded $10 billion for the sixth year in a row,” Bove said.

The scientific community is engaging in intense discussion as to whether climate change and particularly the extremely pronounced warming in the Arctic are responsible for these altered weather patterns. “It is not yet possible to produce causal proof, but there is a logical chain of indices,” according to Peter Höppe, head of Geo Risks Research at Munich Re.

New research sees the warming in the Arctic as an important factor in the increasing and persisting cold-air outbreaks towards the south, as over North America and Asia in 2014. A study of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research also establishes a correlation between weather extremes in summer with the accelerated melting of ice in the Arctic. Flooding in Europe (1997, 2002, 2013) or heatwaves in North America (1983,1984, 2011, 2012) also merit mention.

In addition to the longer-term trends and the natural catastrophes of 2014, Topics Geo 2014 addresses the use of social networks for disaster relief and assessing losses from natural catastrophes. “If we can use information from social media more effectively, it will open up entirely new perspectives for crisis and catastrophe management. Faster and more precise loss estimates will become possible for the insurance industry in the future if this information could be used even more systematically,” according to Torsten Jeworrek, Munich Re’s Reinsurance CEO.

The complete version of Topics Geo 2014 and other weather-related materials are available at http://www.munichre.com/us/weather-resilience-and-protection/rise-weather/productions-publications/publications/topics-geo-nat-cat-2014/index.html.

Source: Munich Re

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