17 November 2009

Top 10 Hurricane Losses: AIR and Pielke et al. 2008

AIR-Worldwide has released an interesting top-10 list of the largest U.S. insured hurricane losses if each historical hurricane had occurred with 2009 exposures. Here are those values:

And here is a similar list of top-10 total damaging storms in the Pielke et al. 2008 (PDF) database as updated to 2009 values in the ICAT Damage Estimator:

There are 8 storms that overlap in the two lists, which we should expect to be different for several reasons. First the AIR-Worldwide list is insured damage and ours is total damage. Second, their list includes business interruption and demand surge and ours does not. This being the case, the AIR-Worldwide list has prompted us to take a second look at the 1947 Fort Lauderdale storm, which has losses that may be underestimated in the NHC database. It appears as 22nd in our 2009 list with an adjusted $16.4B in total losses.

Soon I'll take a look at the AIR-Worldwide earthquake list and see how that compares to our normalized earthquake losses (here in PDF).


  1. I guess the take home message is that there is no GHG signal in hurricane losses.

  2. This is also a sobering story about estimates of actual impacts of weather extremes. It would be interesting to quantify the actual differences, after correcting for insured/economic losses and demand surge effects etc.

  3. -2-Laurens sez:

    “This is also a sobering story about estimates of actual impacts of weather extremes.”

    Given the energy dissipated by (perfectly normal, perfectly natural) hurricanes, it is actually surprising the damages are not far worse. Quoting NOAA (in response to a particularly silly FAQ, emphasis mine):

    “A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20x1013 watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 1013 watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.”