7 February 2014News

US faces costliest winter weather season since 2011

January’s extreme weather in the US will cost the industry over $1.5 billion in insured losses according to a monthly catastrophe report from Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield's catastrophe model development centre. Economic losses are estimated at $3 billion.

“The current winter season in the United States has already become the costliest year for the winter weather peril since 2011,” says Steve Bowen, senior scientist and meteorologist at Impact Forecasting. “The elevated losses this year are a reminder to insurers that the risks associated with the winter weather peril remain significant."

Four incidents of accumulating snowfall and gusts of Arctic air caused the coldest temperatures of -30 degrees in two decades, 21 fatalities, widespread property damage and severe travel delays.

Three further incidents caused $200 million insured losses and 33 fatalities. Business interruption losses were elevated due to severely delayed transport and/or closed commerce.

Both Asia and Europe were also affected by exaggerated winter conditions.

Torrential rains caused widespread flood damage and dozens of fatalities in parts of Asia and South America. China's Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) reported that nearly $170 million in economic damages had occurred to agricultural land and crops due to snow and freezing temperatures. In Thailand, at least 63 people died after the coldest air in 30 years descended into the country. An additional 25 fatalities occurred in India.

The Philippines was also hit by torrential rainfall which caused flooding and landslides leaving 79 people dead or missing. Meanwhile, 71 lives were also lost in Indonesia from flooding and landslides.

European windstorms Anne and Christina brought heavy rains, with the latter bringing an elevated tide in the UK, France and Scandinavia. Economic damages in Ireland alone were estimated at $405 million.

Other significant events included a magnitude-6.2 earthquake in New Zealand's lower North Island, the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Indonesia's North Sumatra, which forced 32,000 residents to evacuate their homes and a series of bushfires in Australia.