Hurricanes become more costly

As the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close, the eye-watering cost is becoming ever more apparent

In a couple of days the Atlantic hurricane season officially comes to a close. 2016 has been very active, with 15 named storms, seven of which became hurricanes.

It started nearly five months early with Alex in mid-January, and ended unusually late with Otto, just a few days ago. Three storms – Gaston, Matthew and Nicole – developed into major hurricanes, and Matthew’s long passage over land made it particularly deadly, taking 1,655 lives. In total the storms have unleashed over 60% more energy than an average hurricane season, and it’s also been the costliest since 2012, causing over $11.5bn (£9.2bn) of damage thus far.

Recent years have seen some eye-watering bills for hurricane damage. The storms of 2012 (which included hurricane Sandy) resulted in $79.2bn (£63.6bn) of damage, while 2005 (which included hurricane Katrina) cost $158.9bn (£127.7bn) – the most expensive Atlantic hurricane season in history. Now research published in Environmental Research Letters predicts that the cost associated with Atlantic hurricanes will keep increasing, with the average losses becoming three times greater by 2100.

Modelling hurricane damage in the US for the period 1963 through to 2100, the scientists found that a third of the increased cost will be due to climate change (bringing more frequent and intense hurricanes), while two thirds of the increased cost will be due to socio-economic factors. Ownership of more expensive gadgets, and confidence that insurance policies or governments will pick up the tab, will lead to rapidly increasing hurricane damage bills.

Understanding where and why hurricane costs are increasing is important, to make sure governments select the best strategies to reduce the risk.


Kate Ravilious

The GuardianTramp

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