Hurricane Ian was the costliest disaster of 2022 for insured losses
Hurricane Ian, which struck Florida and South Carolina earlier in September as a high-end Category 4 storm, caused the second-largest insured loss on record after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to a new report published by reinsurer Swiss Re on Thursday.
Why it matters: Based on preliminary estimates, Hurricane Ian caused between $50 and $65 billion of insured losses, which also makes it this year's costliest natural catastrophe
- Modeling firm RMS previously estimated in October that the storm caused $53 billion to $74 billion in insured losses from Florida to the Carolinas, with a "best estimate" of $67 billion.
- In addition to financial losses, it killed at least at least 114 people in Florida, five others in North Carolina and one in Virginia, according to the New York Times.
- The elevated deaths and financial losses from the storm are a result of it making landfall near densely populated areas in southwest Florida, including Ft. Myers and Naples.
What they're saying: "This highlights the threat potential of a single hurricane hitting a densely populated coastline, in an otherwise benign hurricane year," Swiss Re said.
- "Extreme weather events have led to high insured losses in 2022, underpinning a risk on the rise and unfolding on every continent," Martin Bertogg, Swiss Re's head of catastrophe perils, said in a statement.
- "Urban development, wealth accumulation in disaster-prone areas, inflation and climate change are key factors at play, turning extreme weather into ever-rising natural catastrophe losses," Bertogg added.
By the numbers: Globally, Swiss Re estimates that Ian and other extreme weather events, including winter storms, floods and hailstorms, caused $115 billion in insured losses in 2022, though the figure is subject to change as assessments for additional events are completed.
- That makes 2022 the second consecutive year in which the estimated insured losses were $100 billion and continues the trend of a 5– 7% average annual increase in losses over the past decade.
- Winter storms in Europe in February caused an estimated $3.7 billion in losses, while flooding caused by torrential rain in Australia in February and March caused $4 billion in losses — the country's costliest natural disaster.
Yes, but: Ian's financial toll in reality was much higher, as Swiss Re's report includes only insured losses and excludes uninsured damages.
- Also, not all of this year's major natural catastrophes were included in the report's estimates, such as the weeks of deadly flooding in Pakistan that killed over 1,700 people and caused $14.9 billion in damages and $15.2 billion in economic losses, according to estimates from the World Bank.
- While destructive, the floods did not cause high levels of insured losses that Swiss Re tracks.
The big picture: Climate change caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses is expected to make destructive weather events, including hurricanes, flooding and wildfires, more common and more intense.
- Population growth and development in areas threatened by extreme weather events are also expected to contribute to increased financial losses from natural disasters.
- Already, the cost and frequency of extreme weather and climate disasters have increased in recent years, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.