Munich Re: Unprecedented year for natural disasters

After just six months, natural catastrophes have already resulted in record global damages, surpassing the entirety of 2005, the previous record-holder, according to German reinsurer Munich Re.

From Tuesday’s Munich Re press release:

US$ 265bn in economic losses up to the end of June easily exceeds the total figure for 2005, previously the costliest year to date (US$ 220bn for the year as a whole). Most of the losses were caused by the earthquake in Japan on 11 March.

. . .

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the strongest ever registered in Japan, is also the costliest natural catastrophe on record – even more expensive than Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused economic losses in the order of US$ 125bn.

While not having the global impact of the Japan earthquake, Munich Re noted the tornadoes which affected the Southeast U.S. in late April and May contributed $15 billion to the global losses.

Two weeks ago, we reported that billion dollar weather disasters in the U.S. were also off to a record-setting start:

Through mid-June 2011, an unprecedented eight extreme weather events have become billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). No other year on record (since 1980) has experienced this many such disasters year-to-date.

In fact, the only other year with more billion dollar weather events is 2008, which had nine but over 12 months (compared to eight over six months this year) .

Globally, Munich Re said the losses during the first half of 2011 were five times greater than average losses in the last 10 years.

Damages in 2011 could still mount dramatically. The company noted that first-half calendar year losses are typically less than second-half losses which are often affected by hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the northwest Pacific.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.

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