Insurance giant says natural disasters becoming more frequent

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The number of natural disasters in the United States (pdf) has more than doubled since 1980 according to a new report released by Munich Re, one of the largest reinsurance companies in the world.

This graph says it all:

(Click image to enlarge)
 
The total number of disasters as of June 30, 2008 already exceeds the average number of disasters recorded at mid-year over the past decade. Although 2008 is not on pace to eclipse 2007 as registering the most natural disasters ever, an especially active Atlantic hurricane season is expected.

Natural Disasters and Climate Change

While climate change cannot be linked to any individual weather event, it is widely accepted that warmer temperatures associated with climate change cause more extreme weather. “The year is following the long-term trend towards more weather catastrophes, which is influenced by climate change,” said Torsten Jeworrek, a Munich Re board member.

On climate change and natural disasters Joe Romm at Climate Progress recently wrote that:

“… the tornados and floods battering the country with almost unimaginable severity are the early tantrums of an angry planet. Under this reading, this season of natural disasters shows that climate change has arrived ahead of schedule, much to the disappointment of those who hoped that fire, drought, violent weather and the other predicted impacts of global warming were a problem only for future generations.”

In last year’s final report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s top climate scientists concluded (pdf.) that human influences have:

very likely contributed to sea level rise during the latter half of the 20th century.

likely contributed to changes in wind patters, affecting extra-tropical storm tracks and temperature patterns.

likely increased temperatures of extreme hot nights, cold nights and cold days.

more likely than not increased rick of heat waves, area affected by drought since the 1970’s and frequency of heavy precipitation events.

The IPCC scientists use a “liklihood scale” when drawing conclusions in their reports:

Virtually likely means more than 99% probability of occurence.

Very likely means more than 90% probability

Likely means more than 66% probability

About as likely as not means 33 to 66% probability

Unlikely means less than 33% probability

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