Fewer deaths from natural disasters in 2009

Munich Re: High number of weather extremes confirms the trend

Satellite image of Hurricane Klaus over the Bay of Biscay January 24 © Naval European Meteorology and Oceanography Center - US Navy / NOAA
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The damage caused by natural events in 2009 was significantly lower than in the previous year. The reason: Major catastrophes have largely failed to materialize, and the hurricane season in the North Atlantic has been very mild. This was announced by the Munich Reinsurance Company (Munich Re).


Overall, according to the experts, however, there were more damaging events than the long-term average: 850 natural disasters were recorded. Therefore, despite the absence of really devastating events, there was still a considerable economic damage of 50 billion US dollars - of which at least half was insured. According to Munich Re, the damage to the economy in the previous year was $ 200 billion and for insurers $ 50 billion.

"Only" 10, 000 deaths from natural disasters

On average over the past ten years, around 770 natural events have occurred each year. On average, around 75, 000 people lost their lives. In addition to the damage in 2009, the number of fatalities caused by natural disasters was well below the average - around 10, 000 victims were to be lamented.

"One should not be fooled: Even if the severe hurricanes and other major disasters have failed, but there have been a large number of moderate natural disasters. In particular, the trend towards an increase in weather-related catastrophes persists, whereas the threat posed by geophysical events such as earthquakes basically does not change, "says Professor Peter Höppe, Head of Geo Risks Research at Munich Re. display

Many damage from thunderstorms in the US

Noticeable in the loss statistics 2009 are the high individual losses caused by bad weather in the USA. Three events alone caused insured losses in excess of one billion US dollars each. Overall, 45 percent of global insured losses were attributable to severe weather events. In the United States, damage from heavy rainfall with hail, heavy rain or tornadoes in the past decades from 1980 to today has risen on average by four to ten billion US dollars per year, according to Munich Re.

"Initial analyzes suggest that climate change is already playing a role alongside socio-economic factors, " Höppe explained.

Wintersturm Klaus the most expensive individual event

The most expensive single event in 2009 was Winterstorm Klaus, which hit northern Spain and southwestern France between 23 and 25 January at wind speeds of up to 195 kilometers per hour. Meter high waves on the Altantikk ste were the result, numerous buildings and vehicles were damaged or destroyed. Over a million people were temporarily without electricity. In Spain, many photovoltaic systems were also damaged. Although only a comparatively small area was affected by a winter storm, insured losses were around $ 3 billion.

Earthquake caused the most fatalities

According to Munich Re, most of the fatalities claimed an earthquake that shattered the Indonesian island of Sumatra on 30 September. Although the earthquake of magnitude 7.6 occurred at a depth of 80 kilometers, tens of thousands of homes collapsed in the large city of Padang, 45 kilometers from the epicenter, and in the surrounding areas. Nearly 1, 200 people were killed.

However, many people also died in storms in Asia, with particularly the Philippines, but also Vietnam and Taiwan were affected. Three heavy typhoons - Morakot, Ketsana, Parma - destroyed it, and more than 1, 700 people died.

In contrast, the hurricane season in the North Atlantic went well. Although the warm water temperatures in the tropical sea area provided conditions for an above-average hurricane season, only nine named named storms were counted, three of them in hurricane strength. Thus, the numbers remained well below the average warm period since the mid-1990s - 14.3 named storms, 7.5 hurricanes - but also below the long-term average (10.8 named St warmth).

El Ni o with dampening effect

According to initial estimates by Munich Re, the El Ni o phenomenon may have had a dulling effect on the formation of the eddy currents. In El Ni o conditions, the wind speeds in higher atmosphere layers across the Atlantic also change, causing the

Formation of vertebrae is prevented.

The long-term hurricane risk does not manifest in a single season. Many experts are convinced that climate change has already increased the hurricane level, "says H ppe. The experts at Munich Re continue to assume that hurricane activity will be in line with the average of the warm phase that has been going on for around 15 years in the North Atlantic in the next few years.

Slightly below average this year was the tropical storm season in the Indian Ocean and the West Pacific. The year ended, however, with a super-cyclone worming just before Christmas on the Australian Northwest Coast. "Laurence" temporarily reached level 5, the highest intensity category. Fortunately, his train track was largely over uninhabited area. If Laurence had hit a city, it probably would have resulted in high damage. But the consequences remained relatively low.

Climate change as a risk factor

Torsten Jeworrek, Member of the Munich Re Board of Management for the global reinsurance business, pointed to the significant increase in major weather-related natural catastrophes worldwide since 1950, which has meanwhile risen threefold be. Since 1980, weather-related natural disasters have caused economic losses of approximately $ 1, 600 billion.

In this case, climate change should have already made a significant contribution. In view of these facts, it is very disappointing that no breakthrough was achieved at the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit in Copenhagen. At Munich Re, we are intensively involved in a variety of risks and how best to deal with them. Particularly dangerous are risks that change over time. Climate change is such a risk of change, "says Jeworrek.

New climate agreement required

The damage caused by climate change is likely to increase further in the future. "We need an agreement quickly, which reduces the greenhouse gas emissions noticeably, because the climate is sluggish. And what we can not do now will last for decades, "continues Jeworrek. Munich Re will now be all the more emphatic in promoting its own initiatives, such as investments in renewable energies amounting to up to two billion euros or the desert power project Desertec.

"We will do everything we can to ensure that DII GmbH, as the planning company for the Desertec project, can put ready plans on the table in three years' time. Of course, Munich Re will also participate in the implementation - as an investor and insurer, "announced Jeworrek.

(Munich Reinsurance Company, 05.01.2010 - DLO)