Are Economic Losses from Extreme Weather Events Increasing?
Neumayer, E. and Barthel, F. 2011. Normalizing economic loss from natural disasters: A global analysis. Global Environmental Change 21: 13-24.
More specifically, they used two different methods of normalizing economic losses from natural disasters to look for evidence of trends in economic losses from (a) all natural disasters, and (b) all weather-related disasters. They also examined loss trends from convective weather events (i.e., flash floods, hail storms, tempest storms, tornados, and lightning) in the U.S. and Western Europe, and hurricanes in the U.S. and the Caribbean. They also examined temporal trends in the number of disasters in the database.
Results indicated that regardless of which normalization method is used, the researchers found no significant upward trend in normalized economic losses for either all natural disasters or weather related disasters. This was true at the global level, for developed and developing countries, as well as for the specific regions that were examined. Similarly, they found no trends in normalized losses for convective events or hurricanes. Lastly, they report that there is no method of determining whether the lack of trend is due to adaptive measures or due to changes in the intensities of the weather related events.
In considering the above, this paper does not bear out claims that global warming will intensify damages from extreme weather events. It also reaffirms the results of several other studies that have looked at loss trends under a variety of extreme weather events for specific areas/regions, finding that any increasing trend disappears once population and/or increased wealth is accounted for (Barredo 2008, Bouwer 2010, Brook and Doswell 2001, Crompton and McAneney 2008, Downton et al. 2005, Pileke et al. 2008).
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Crompton, R.P., and McAneney, K.J. 2008. Normalised Australian insured losses from meteorological hazards: 1967-2006. Environmental Science and Policy 11: 371-378.
Downton, M.W., Miller, J.Z.B., Pielke, R.A., Jr. 2005. Reanalysis of U.S. National Weather Service Flood Loss Database. Natural Hazards Review 6: 13-22.
Pielke, R.A., Jr., Gratz, J., Landsea, C.W., Collins, D., Saunders, M.A., and Musulin, R. 2008. Normalized Hurricane Damage in the United States: 1900-2005. Natural Hazard Review 9: 29-42.