Reality check: Global Weather Related Disaster Losses

There’s a belief among alarmists that losses from weather related disasters is on the rise, and this it yet another reason why we have to “take action now”. For example, in an article by the New York Times,

2017 Set a Record for Losses From Natural Disasters. It Could Get Worse they state

Insured losses from weather-related disasters were at a high, making up most of the $135 billion. Munich Re executives warned that losses would continue to escalate.

“Some of the catastrophic events, such as the series of three extremely damaging hurricanes, or the very severe flooding in South Asia after extraordinarily heavy monsoon rains, are giving us a foretaste of what is to come,” Torsten Jeworrek, a Munich Re board member, said in a statement.

Roger Pielke Jr. corrects this misinformation and says on Twitter:

I updated my global disasters as pct of global GDP dataset using data from: (’90-’17) (’00-’17) (GDP) (deflators)

From 1990-2017 losses as pct of GDP fell by about 1/3 (linear trend) That’s good news.

In the graph above, note that 2005 was the year of Hurricane Katrina, and 2017 was the year of Hurricane Harvey. Both of these weather events had an impact on total disaster losses, but also notice the lull in the years in between when there were no CAT3 or greater hurricanes making landfall on the USA.


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January 24, 2018 12:42 pm

They set everyone up……every storm is over hyped…so, of course, the public will think losses are increasing

James Bull
Reply to  Latitude
January 25, 2018 12:22 am

I’ve noticed this desire to name every breath of wind and drop of rain, rather than just calling it weather. There was a hugh and cry a couple of weeks back here in the UK they failed to name some small weather event!!!
It did mean though that I was able to blame Doris for stealing my hat and throwing it over a fence LOL.
James Bull

Reply to  James Bull
January 25, 2018 9:23 am

Hue and cry:
This mysterious word hue is from the first part of the Anglo-Norman French legal phrase hu e cri. This came from the Old French hu for an outcry, in turn from huer, to shout. It seems that hue could mean any cry, or even the sound of a horn or trumpet — the phrase hu e cri had a Latin equivalent, hutesium et clamor, “with horn and with voice”

Reply to  James Bull
January 25, 2018 9:23 am
Reply to  Latitude
January 25, 2018 6:10 am

During the 50’s and 60’s you could drive down Hy 158 near Kill Devil Hills, NC and enjoy the view of the Atlantic, 1000 ft distance. Today your view is blocked by strip malls and every 10,000 sq ft of land above 3 ft elevation is occupied by a home. 158 is bumper to bumper traffic all summer. This is the how the entire US coast has changed in the past 50 years. Today’s 10 billion dollar storm would have been a 500 million storm 60 years ago adjusted for today’s dollars.

January 24, 2018 12:44 pm

It’s not just an idle belief. Some ratings agencies are working off a very different scare chart of rapidly rising storm events globally as the basis of new bond ratings and agri and coastal risk based on sourced nonsense. This is where belief transitions into institutional cost because the ratings firms were coerced to undertake the exercise. Unless they backtrack or shelve the risk study it will be institutionalized nonsense all for appearance sake.

January 24, 2018 12:50 pm

The economic impact of damages has to be framed in the context of the economy. NOAA’s “billion dollar incident” study was totally bogus because it didn’t present the damages as % of GDP.

Reply to  David Middleton
January 24, 2018 1:59 pm

I don’t know how they would ever figure this out…
A well placed hurricane in Miami or the Keys could take out just 5 houses that are worth more than all of Bangladesh…difference being, those 5 houses are built for it and would probably receive no damage at all.
My point is, how would you compare some place that’s built for it with another place that’s not

Reply to  Latitude
January 24, 2018 6:16 pm

And how do you account for the fact that development of these areas continues to go on, where 40 years ago there was little there and now it is filled with structures of one kind or another?

Reply to  David Middleton
January 24, 2018 7:28 pm

Of course, with more & more people living in high risk areas there is bound be major losses from time to time.
Not to mention FEMA’s lower than market price disaster insurance which actually encourages movement into those high risk areas.

January 24, 2018 1:01 pm

Even plotting loses as a % of GDP is decieving.
As populations increases, naturally more people (and thus more property) will be affected by any disaster.

old construction worker
Reply to  ddpalmer
January 24, 2018 6:52 pm

you for got include inflation

Reply to  old construction worker
January 25, 2018 9:25 am

% GDP automatically compensates for inflation.

January 24, 2018 1:10 pm

Not sure what “% of GDP” means, since this is “global” losses, and each country has its own GDP figure. But I note that a destructive hurricane in the US does a lot more monetary damage than a cyclonic storm hitting, say, Bangladesh. So how do major US hurricanes skew, if at all, the global “% of GDP”?

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  brians356
January 24, 2018 1:33 pm

The US impacts the total lot because it is more than 20% of global product. Years when big storms hit the US like 2005 and 2017 show up as spikes in the chart.

January 24, 2018 1:13 pm

OT.. science question
I have been pondering why the global warming is not following the models. My hypothesis is that the energized CO2 molecule does not lose its energy solely by radiation emission, but by thermalization of adjacent molecules(H2O, N2, etc), by collision. Thus following the planck curve, the outgoing radiation will be transmitted around the CO2 window.
The question is, what percent gets thermalized, after being energized by LWIR? A doubling of CO2 thus could simply result in thermalizing being done at a slightly lower altitude. This is consistent with the slight cooling of the upper troposphere as compared to the equatorial small temperature rise.
Can anyone point me to a paper or tests to educate me?

John harmsworth
Reply to  sailboarder
January 24, 2018 1:48 pm

I don’t have an answer for you but I agree with your premise. Energy absorbed by a molecule of CO2 is transferred to any adjacent molecule to equalize temperature and/or is emitted in any direction whatsoever by any single molecule or every direction by a number of molecules. In this respect it is no different than any other component molecule of the atmosphere. Minimal impact on surrounding air temperatures or ground temperature.

Reply to  sailboarder
January 24, 2018 2:27 pm

This article might help:
Molar Mass Version of the Ideal Gas Law Points to a Very Low Climate Sensitivity

Reply to  martinc19
January 24, 2018 5:40 pm

Thanks. So far Eq 5 checks out, which is a surprise, since some posters here postulated that it was some sort of “trick”.

Reply to  martinc19
January 25, 2018 1:49 am

Unanswered is how the density or atmospheric mass is determined without knowing the temperature. With the atmospheric composition, the moles are known, but to determine the density, the pressure must be taken, thus the temperature as well. They are not independent. I see that the equations are “solved” without explaining where the density of the earths atmosphere comes from, I conclude so far that is a circular argument. The earths temperature is calculated indirectly from the earths temperature.(PV=nRT)

Leonard Weinstein
Reply to  sailboarder
January 24, 2018 2:38 pm

You are misunderstanding the reason for the atmospheric greenhouse effect, and CO2’s contribution. If thermal radiation directly from the ground and water (heated by sunlight) did not encounter and be absorbed by water vapor, clouds, and CO2 (and other trace gases), the atmospheric greenhouse effect would not exist, and the surface balance would result in the surface being about 32 degrees C cooler. The presence of these gases and aerosols absorbs some of the radiation from the surface and excites it. It mainly then is thermalized by collision with the N2 and O2 to put energy in the surrounding. The N2 and O2 also collide with the water vapor, clouds, and aerosols, so all are in a fair local equilibrium at the slightly warmer level. The water vapor, aerosols, and CO2 also emit photons corresponding to their local temperature, and the subsequent collisions with the N2 and O2 removes energy locally. The final local average temperature depends on the balance of in and out radiation, combined with any convection from different levels and any condensation of water vapor (which releases heat of vaporization). It has to be noted that the temperature also becomes lower at higher altitude due only to gravity, average specific heat of the gases, and any condensation. This is called the lapse rate. The re-emission of the absorbed surface radiation and re-absorption of some of it at even higher altitude,and re-balance locally continues until the radiation exits the atmosphere to space. The combination of direct radiation to space from the ground, with the radiation that goes to space from higher altitudes has to (on the long time average) equal absorbed solar radiation input. Since much of the radiation to space exits from water vapor, aerosols (clouds and dust), and CO2 at significant altitude above the ground, and since the average temperature at the average altitude of all sources of radiation to space, this average altitude temperature has to be same as the ground would have been if there were no absorbing gases or aerosols in order to balance incoming and outgoing radiation averages. This average altitude is about 5 km above the surface. Due to the lapse rate, the temperature increases toward the surface by the approximate 6,5 degrees C per km, This results in the atmospheric greenhouse warming of the surface. Increasing greenhouse gases like CO2 could raise this altitude higher by reabsorbing and readmitting radiation at even higher elevation.

Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
January 24, 2018 2:46 pm

Thanks to the two posts above. I am trying to avoid the question of the existence or not of the GE, but rather why the models failed with respect to the “hot spot”. My conjecture is that thermaliztion goes on that effectively reduces the expected CO2 warming. I would like to see some actual lab experiments that prove the issue one way or the other.

Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
January 25, 2018 2:03 am

But the reality is that the greenhouse effect you speak of is a radient greenhouse effect which has not been observed in a real greenhouse, the Earth;s atmosphere, or anywhere else in the solar system. The insulating effects of the atmosphere can all be explained by the convective greenhouse effect caused by gravity and the heat capacity of the atmosphere. The convective greenhouse effect, as derived from first principals, accounts for all 32 degrees C that you speak of. There is no additional warming caused by an additional radiant greenhouse effect. The effetive radiating altitude that you speak of is at the mass vs altitude centroid of the atmosphere and is not a function of the LWIR absorption properties of so called greenhouse gases If the IPCC knew exatly how the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere affected the effective radiatng altitude them they would be able to quote a single value for the climate sensivity of CO2 but they don’t..

Reply to  Leonard Weinstein
January 25, 2018 8:00 am

Can you answer my question as to how the density of say Venus is obtained without Pressure, Temperature, composition measurements? What am I missing? What data is used for Eq 5 and how is that data obtained?

January 24, 2018 1:13 pm

Hence the old saw: There are liars, there are damn liars, and then there are statisticians.

Reply to  jwgiles
January 24, 2018 4:38 pm

And there are computer modelers, let’s keep the last two properly practiced.

Reply to  jwgiles
January 25, 2018 9:27 am

Numbers are like people. Torture them long enough and they’ll tell you whatever you want to know.

January 24, 2018 1:23 pm
It’s not like population growth magically ceases or like the development of new ADDITIONAL storm-vulnerable real estate suddenly stops that year. If more people are born who can be harmed by storms, and if more real estate is developed that can be harmed by storms, then the cause of record storm damage is ….. what, now ? Of course, it is humans’ fault — human birthing and human building, that is. Even the extra CO2 produced from all that birthing and building means nothing, where storm-damage assessment is concerned.
Blinders and denial are such wonderful things.

January 24, 2018 1:32 pm

Perhaps the fraudsters and rob-dogs of MunichRe might like to peruse Genesis 41.
Then they might share with us what they have done with the accrued excess profits of the ‘seven years of plenty’ (or fat cows or abundant ears of corn, if you like). In their case this would represent the decade of ‘hurricane drought’ whilst they were falsely shroud waving about climate change. Nice trick to help flog their dodgy insurance policies.
No surprises there. This is precisely the type of self serving scam that is the backbone of the Climate Cult.
Even a Fake News rag like the New York Times must be wondering how many more times they can cry ‘wolf’ and still find anyone to take them seriously.

Steve Zell
January 24, 2018 1:42 pm

When a major catastrophic storm hits, such as Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017, or Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in 2005, the news media like to jump on the bandwagon and blame the damages on “global warming” or “climate change” and cause people to fear worse storms in the future, and demand “action” against climate change.
After 2005, with a record number of named tropical storms (through the alphabet and 5 letters of the Greek alphabet), there were three “quiet” years out of the next four, but the new media never tried to blame or thank anyone for a lack of storms–people just enjoyed the calm weather, and the news media found other subjects for reports.
The news media were quick to jump on 2012’s Hurricane Sandy as further “evidence” of “global warming” causing a catastrophic storm, but it was only catastrophic because it hit a heavily populated area (New Jersey and New York City) not accustomed to hurricanes, less than two weeks before a presidential election, and Obama was right there to stop the seas from rising, as he had said four years earlier.
But the actual damage from storms in 2012 was only slightly above the trendline, and Sandy could hardly be blamed on “global warming”–it was steered toward New Jersey by an unusually COLD air mass over the North Atlantic, and Sandy dumped two feet of snow on West Virginia in October.
But for the news media, if it bleeds, it leads, and good news doesn’t sell newspapers or generate clicks on news websites. If there’s a terrible storm, blame it on global warming, and if there’s not, ignore the lull and talk about something else.
Let’s face it, 2017 was a bad year for hurricanes (as was 2005), but let’s see whether 2018 and 2019 will become the calm after the storm.

January 24, 2018 2:18 pm

How ignorant must a person be to not understand that the cost of damages is dependent on a whole plethora of variables and thus is not a viable metric for gauging the incidence or severity of global weather?

Reply to  Rah
January 24, 2018 3:46 pm

Not necessarily ignorant. For many of them they have an agenda which is more important to them than the truth.

Bob Burban
January 24, 2018 2:32 pm

Great news for the insurance business: a slam-dunk for cranking up premiums.

Rick C PE
Reply to  Bob Burban
January 24, 2018 7:57 pm

Quite true. But the insurance industry is quite competitive and over estimating risk and jacking up premiums will open the door to competitors who more accurately assess risk and therefore charge lower premiums. This is why “Actuaries”, who are some of the best statisticians there are, get paid big bucks. I would love to hear an Actuary’s take on GCM projections and the statistical methods employed by warmists.

The other Phil
Reply to  Rick C PE
January 25, 2018 8:33 am

I am an actuary — I’m now retired so no longer raking in the “big bucks”. I most recently worked for a company that is a major player in coverage for hurricane losses.
I’ve worked on computer models of many insurance related issues, mostly not involving weather and climate related risks (breast implants, hepatitis C, Y2K, business interruption), but I do have some hands-on experience with climate related modeling. While working for a consulting firm, I helped them develop a tool to estimate loss cost from projected hurricanes and worked on the track modeling aspect. I’ve also participated in reviews of the major models used by insurance and reinsurance companies to estimate losses given a profile of insureds by location. These are not, strictly speaking GCM’s, but close enough that I have some appreciation for the challenges of such modeling and the potential pitfalls.
Is a very brief summary, I am reminded of the quote by a Coke executive about the new Coke blunder, which I will paraphrase and apply to GCMs – they aren’t quite as bad as the median views of WUWT contributors or commenters, but they are nowhere near as good as the proponents suggest.
Modeling is always an approximation of reality, and requires some simplifying assumptions. If you are modeling a cannonball shot out of a cannon, there are a manageable number of forces at play. Some assumptions need to be made, these are relatively modest and the location of the landing can be reasonably estimated. In contrast, the number of forces in a GCM are staggering and many important assumptions must be made using limited and sometimes questionable data.

Reply to  Rick C PE
January 25, 2018 9:34 am

When it comes to climate, I’ve always said that the models are good for helping you figure out what it is you don’t know yet. And that is about it.
Make a model, perform a hindcast. If the results are close to reality, there’s a chance that your model is accurate. (Perfectly matching reality could be the result of chance, or it could be for that the time period in question your errors managed to cancel each other out. Only time will tell.)
If the model doesn’t match reality, play with the variables a bit to see which changes improve your results.
At that point you get to go back into the field to try and figure out why the number that worked was different from your origianal assumptions.
Lather, rinse, repeat; gradually improving your model. Never assume your model is perfect because those bloody unknown unknowns are always waiting out there to bite your butt when you least expect it.

Gerald Machnee
January 24, 2018 3:09 pm

Anybody remember 1935 when 3 hurricanes hit the east coast?

Reply to  Gerald Machnee
January 25, 2018 9:35 am

If you are old enough to remember that, the odds are you don’t anymore anyway.

January 24, 2018 3:54 pm

My house insurance, after many years of increases over the rate of inflation, went up 50% this year. I asked why, and it’s apparently because I live in a ‘high cyclone risk area’. I asked why, when I lived in the same area for years, the ‘risk’ had increased. No coherent response, just hand-waving.
Needless to say, I hunted for a better deal, got one at 50% of their new quote.
I checked my other insurances, sure enough, they’re all doing it. My car insurance increases every year, even though the value of the car decreases. My ‘loyalty bonus’ is a joke. My new policy is to hunt around every year on every suitable insurance now (some exclude existing conditions, so I will do those less often). They are all basically ripping us off because we’re too lazy.

Reply to  Jer0me
January 25, 2018 9:36 am

In some cases including a climate warming risk factor is mandated by state law.

January 24, 2018 6:09 pm

Fortunately, catastrophe insurance is a competitive business. If Munich Re wants to raise rates because their propaganda machine is trying to convince customers that CAGW has increased the risk of climate related losses, there is a competitor (e.g., Warren Buffett’s General Re) willing to offer much lower rates. Indeed, my company’s risk specialists have advised that catastrophic risk insurance has been so profitable over the last decade that there are too many companies competing for business. As a result, our insurance costs have dropped.

January 24, 2018 6:28 pm

Somewhere since WWII western society evolved into culture demanding a life that is total risk free. Then they get in their cars pick up their smart phones and drive off from the latest meeting where they were told of some horrible pending disaster only fixed if someone else changes their ways. We often see disasters measured by present dollars, seldom compared to past similar event adjusted by inflation. Seldom does the media discuss that often human failures are to be blamed for the high cost of a natural disaster. If and when a major earthquake happens in California there will be little talk about how the buildings were build in the wrong place, using the wrong methodology. And I will bet someone will blame it on CAGW.

January 24, 2018 8:50 pm

I called out Munich Re and NYT at the time but on a slightly different bit of spin- the 2017 hurricanes being due to climate change:

Ian McCandless
January 25, 2018 8:27 pm

“There’s a belief among alarmists that losses from weather related disasters is on the rise”
Percentage-wise, or total dollars? The problem with most scientists is that they are not skilled in logic, and so can be influenced by logical fallacies regarding numbers and percentages.

J Mac
January 29, 2018 9:12 pm

“Some of the catastrophic events, …., are giving us a foretaste of what is to come.”
These folks can see the future? How? Uncalibrated and uncertified Climate Models?
Crystal Ball? Tarot Cards? Steaming Chicken Guts? Rattling Them Bones???

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