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Waters flood the streets near a gas station as Tropical Storm Lee slowly makes landfall in Lafitte, Louisiana September 4, 2011. (DAN ANDERSON/Reuters)
Waters flood the streets near a gas station as Tropical Storm Lee slowly makes landfall in Lafitte, Louisiana September 4, 2011. (DAN ANDERSON/Reuters)

Weather-related losses batter North America Add to ...

Weather-related extreme events have battered North America the most of all the world’s continents over the past three decades, according to a new study.

The rising number of natural catastrophes is most evident in North America and climate change is believed to be a contributing factor to this trend, says the publication by Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer.

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The report indicates that the number of weather-related loss events in North America almost quintupled over the past 30 years, compared with an increase factor of four in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, two in Europe and 1.5 in South America.

Between 1980 and 2011, North America accounted for $510-billion (U.S.) insured losses due to weather-related catastrophes such as tropical cyclones, thunderstorms, winter storms, tornadoes, wildfires, drought and flood. That’s 69 per cent of the global total, says the report published Wednesday.

A total of 30,000 people in North America lost their lives due to weather catastrophes in the 30-year period.

One reason for North America’s high exposure to every type of hazardous weather peril is the fact that there is no east-west mountain range that separates hot from cold air, says the analysis.

But climate change also played a part, say Munich Re officials.

“In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our U.S. loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence,” Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit, said in a statement.

“The view that weather extremes are becoming more frequent and intense in various regions due to global warming is in keeping with current scientific findings,” said Peter Röder, Munich Re’s board member responsible for the U.S. market.

Climate change mitigation measures should be supported to limit global warming in the long run to a manageable level, he added.

The costliest event was 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in and around New Orleans, with insured losses of $62.2-billion and overall losses of $125-billion. It was also the deadliest single storm event, claiming 1,322 lives.

Storms accounted for 76 per cent of overall losses in North America in the 30-year time frame, says the report.

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