Insurers: El Niño And Global Warming Make Natural Disasters Less Expensive


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Due to El Niño and global warming, 2015 natural disasters are much less costly than expected, according to a study by an insurance industry group.

The insurance industry’s largest losses in recent years are due to severe winter weather. Global warming and El Niño — a weather event that warms up ocean temperatures in South America, causing the United states to get unusually warm for a year — abated these insurance costs, according to Munich Reinsurance America, Inc.

The particularly harsh winter of 2014-2015 caused direct losses of $4.6 billion dollars, 73 percent of which was insured. Losses due to winter weather were also bad during the 2013-2014 winter, the study reported.

Additional insurance industry expenses accrued due to tornadoes, but fewer than 1,200 tornadoes were recorded in the U.S. in 2015 — below the annual average of 1,360. The warming trend also “impacted conditions that led to a quieter overall thunderstorm season,” further reducing losses.

Graphic from Business Wire

(Source: Business Wire)

Historically, hurricanes are the insurance industry’s biggest weather related expense, but no hurricane made landfall in the United States during 2015. In fact, no major hurricane has made landfall in the U.S. in the last 10 years, setting a new record. Scientists, however, expect global warming will lead to fewer, but slightly stronger, hurricanes.

Deaths from natural disasters and weather also dropped significantly, according to the study and other sources. Natural disasters claimed 280 lives in the U.S. in 2015 and 270 lives in 2014. Those numbers are dramatically below the 30-year annual average of 580 natural disaster and weather-related deaths.

Extreme weather events like tornadoes and floods have been remarkably less deadly as well in recent years. Thousands of American lives have been saved from tornado and flood deaths due to the weather patterns, according to the charts below.

Graph from



Graphic from Human Progress


Even the rate of heat-related deaths has declined in the United States. Global warming will likely decrease the rate of heat deaths, not cause more.

Graph From HumanProgress

Graph From HumanProgress

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