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U.S. Tops List of Natural Disaster Losses for 2012

By Ines Perez, E&E reporter
June 02, 2013; 10:54 AM

Since 1980, geophysical events -- such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions -- have been more or less stable, while weather-related events -- including storms, floods, heat waves and drought -- have grown more than threefold. The United States, in particular, was seriously affected by weather extremes in 2012, accounting for 69 percent of total global disaster losses, a report showed.

According to a new report by risk management group Munich Re, 2012 saw 905 natural catastrophes worldwide, pushing total disaster-related losses to $170 billion. While global loss was "moderate" -- compared with 2011's record $380 billion -- it represented the second-costliest year for the United States, after 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit.

"Some two-thirds of the global overall losses and 92 percent of the insured losses in 2012 were due to weather-related events in the United States," the report said.

Superstorm Sandy, the summer-long drought in the Midwest, and severe storms and tornados accounted for more than $100 billion of worldwide losses. Of this, $58 billion was covered by the insurance industry.

"With regard to insured losses, a particularly striking feature in the climatological events category was that droughts accounted for 28 percent. This is well above the long-term average of 7 percent [from 1980 to 2011] and was due to the severe drought that primarily afflicted the U.S. Midwest during the year, causing immense agricultural losses," the company reported.

For the top 15 crop insurance companies in the United States -- such as Wells Fargo, QBE, ACE, American Financial Group and Endurance -- 2012 was the first time in a decade that crop insurance was a money loser, according to a Reuters report.

The drought alone cost the country more than $20 billion.

The rest of 2012's overall disaster losses were mainly distributed between the Asia-Pacific region (17 percent) and Europe (13 percent) and less than 1 percent in South America and Africa, the report said.

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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