Tag Archives: Hurricanes

US faces rising hurricane bill

Scientists forecast that hurricane damage could increase dramatically in the US as high-income countries are also threatened by extreme weather events.

LONDON, 28 August, 2016 – German scientists have just issued a financial weather forecast that in a world of unmitigated climate change, the financial losses for the US per hurricane could triple, and annual losses due to hurricanes could rise eightfold.

And, they calculate that however vigorous the US economy, its growth cannot outpace the projected rising costs of hurricane damage in the decades ahead.

More than half of all weather-related economic losses around the globe are caused by damage due to tropical cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons, and the lessons of new research in Environmental Research Letters journal is that high-income countries may be no better protected than the poorest in this respect.

“So far, historical losses due to tropical cyclones have been found to increase less than linearly with a nation’s affected gross domestic product (GDP),” says Tobias Geiger, climate impacts and vulnerabilities researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who led the study.

Hurricane losses

“However, if you analyse losses with respect to per capita income and population growth separately, this reveals a different picture. Our analysis for the United States shows that high income does not protect against hurricane losses.

“As the number and intensity of tropical cyclones is projected to increase under unchecked global warming by the end of the century, average hurricane losses with respect to GDP could triple.”

The bill for hurricanes in the US between 1980 and 2014 is estimated at $400 billion − and that represents half of all meteorologically-induced damage.

Hurricane hazard is a function of sea temperatures: once surface temperatures exceed 26°C, the probabilities grow, and potential intensity grows too. Global warming, of course, increases ocean temperatures, and therefore the hazard.

“The hope in economic growth as an answer
to climate change is ill-founded”

Once again, this is research that aligns with other studies. Economists and climate scientists separately have calculated the global economic threats associated with global warming and climate change, and quite specifically in the case of coastal flooding of the kind associated with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

One team of researchers looked at the cost of coastal flooding by 2050, and estimated an annual cost of $1 trillion. A second study delivered a figure of $100 trillion in costs by 2100.

The UN secretariat most closely concerned with monitoring disaster has warned that climate change in the form of weather-related catastrophe is already hurting the poorest and the most vulnerable.

As PIK published its study, the same secretariat – the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction − warned that flooding in Louisiana is shaping up as the worst to hit the US since Katrina.

And the US space agency NASA has reminded Americans that while the Louisiana’s floods follow unusually heavy rainfall – a total of 686mm in a short period – at least the same quantity fell in the state in March 2016, once again with consequent flooding. Louisiana, buffeted and then flooded by Katrina in 2005, is in the path of hurricanes.

Models of damages

The PIK scientists worked with models that matched a storm’s wind speed with the numbers of people exposed and per capita GDP to reported losses. They considered historic losses, estimated future losses, and looked at statistical models of damages.

They used data about historical hurricane tracks for the eastern US to make the connection between those affected, the average capital income, and the damages that followed. And they did it for thousands of potential future hurricane tracks between now and 2100, while making a range of assumptions about levels of global warming.

“Some people hope that a growing economy will be able to compensate for the damages caused by climate change – that we can outgrow climate change economically instead of mitigating it,” says another of the study’s authors, Anders Levermann, PIK professor of dynamics of the climate system.

“But what if damages grow faster than our economy, what if climate impacts hit faster than we are able to adapt? We find this is the case with hurricane damage in the United States. The hope in economic growth as an answer to climate change is ill-founded.” – Climate News Network

Scientists forecast that hurricane damage could increase dramatically in the US as high-income countries are also threatened by extreme weather events.

LONDON, 28 August, 2016 – German scientists have just issued a financial weather forecast that in a world of unmitigated climate change, the financial losses for the US per hurricane could triple, and annual losses due to hurricanes could rise eightfold.

And, they calculate that however vigorous the US economy, its growth cannot outpace the projected rising costs of hurricane damage in the decades ahead.

More than half of all weather-related economic losses around the globe are caused by damage due to tropical cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons, and the lessons of new research in Environmental Research Letters journal is that high-income countries may be no better protected than the poorest in this respect.

“So far, historical losses due to tropical cyclones have been found to increase less than linearly with a nation’s affected gross domestic product (GDP),” says Tobias Geiger, climate impacts and vulnerabilities researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who led the study.

Hurricane losses

“However, if you analyse losses with respect to per capita income and population growth separately, this reveals a different picture. Our analysis for the United States shows that high income does not protect against hurricane losses.

“As the number and intensity of tropical cyclones is projected to increase under unchecked global warming by the end of the century, average hurricane losses with respect to GDP could triple.”

The bill for hurricanes in the US between 1980 and 2014 is estimated at $400 billion − and that represents half of all meteorologically-induced damage.

Hurricane hazard is a function of sea temperatures: once surface temperatures exceed 26°C, the probabilities grow, and potential intensity grows too. Global warming, of course, increases ocean temperatures, and therefore the hazard.

“The hope in economic growth as an answer
to climate change is ill-founded”

Once again, this is research that aligns with other studies. Economists and climate scientists separately have calculated the global economic threats associated with global warming and climate change, and quite specifically in the case of coastal flooding of the kind associated with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

One team of researchers looked at the cost of coastal flooding by 2050, and estimated an annual cost of $1 trillion. A second study delivered a figure of $100 trillion in costs by 2100.

The UN secretariat most closely concerned with monitoring disaster has warned that climate change in the form of weather-related catastrophe is already hurting the poorest and the most vulnerable.

As PIK published its study, the same secretariat – the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction − warned that flooding in Louisiana is shaping up as the worst to hit the US since Katrina.

And the US space agency NASA has reminded Americans that while the Louisiana’s floods follow unusually heavy rainfall – a total of 686mm in a short period – at least the same quantity fell in the state in March 2016, once again with consequent flooding. Louisiana, buffeted and then flooded by Katrina in 2005, is in the path of hurricanes.

Models of damages

The PIK scientists worked with models that matched a storm’s wind speed with the numbers of people exposed and per capita GDP to reported losses. They considered historic losses, estimated future losses, and looked at statistical models of damages.

They used data about historical hurricane tracks for the eastern US to make the connection between those affected, the average capital income, and the damages that followed. And they did it for thousands of potential future hurricane tracks between now and 2100, while making a range of assumptions about levels of global warming.

“Some people hope that a growing economy will be able to compensate for the damages caused by climate change – that we can outgrow climate change economically instead of mitigating it,” says another of the study’s authors, Anders Levermann, PIK professor of dynamics of the climate system.

“But what if damages grow faster than our economy, what if climate impacts hit faster than we are able to adapt? We find this is the case with hurricane damage in the United States. The hope in economic growth as an answer to climate change is ill-founded.” – Climate News Network

US must face up to the dark side of climate change

As global temperatures rise, scientists warn that more cities in the US face the threat of power blackouts caused by fierce and frequent hurricanes. LONDON, 29 December, 2014 − Climate change could leave more Americans in the dark as hurricanes become more intense or more frequent. Researchers in the US have identified 27 cities that are likely to become more vulnerable to blackouts as a result of floods and high winds hitting the power grid. They report in the journal Climatic Change that they matched evidence from the past – historic hurricane information – with scenarios for future storm behaviour throughout the US as global temperatures rise. And then they looked at those cities most vulnerable.

Big increase

Top of the list were New York, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Virginia Beach and Hartford, which all could see a big increase in future risk of power cuts. The cities most likely to keep the lights burning are Memphis, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Buffalo. In fact, there is no certainty about how global warming will affect hurricane patterns. As sea surface temperatures rise above 28°C, hurricanes tend to become more likely, and there is evidence that tropical cyclones in the Northern hemisphere are increasingly likely to threaten cities once considered beyond the hazard zone. But hurricanes are capricious monsters, and how their characteristics will change with warmer atmosphere is still debated. So the scientists looked at a range of possibilities. Cities already at risk – such as Miami and New Orleans – will remain at risk. But New York and Philadelphia, and even some inland urban areas, could become susceptible to increasing storm activity. For New York – devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 – and Philadelphia, the probability of the kind of storm previously considered a once-a-century event is likely to increase by 50%. More people would lose power more often, and the worst storms could be substantially more intense.

Future hazards

The point of the research is to make civic authorities more aware of potential future hazards. “We provide insight into how power systems along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts may be affected by climate changes, including which areas should be most concerned and which ones are unlikely to see substantial change,” said Seth Guikema, a geographer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “If I’m mayor of Miami, we know about hurricanes, we know about outages, and our system has been adapted for it. But if I’m mayor of Philadelphia, I might say: ‘Whoa, we need to be doing more about this.’” – Climate News Network

As global temperatures rise, scientists warn that more cities in the US face the threat of power blackouts caused by fierce and frequent hurricanes. LONDON, 29 December, 2014 − Climate change could leave more Americans in the dark as hurricanes become more intense or more frequent. Researchers in the US have identified 27 cities that are likely to become more vulnerable to blackouts as a result of floods and high winds hitting the power grid. They report in the journal Climatic Change that they matched evidence from the past – historic hurricane information – with scenarios for future storm behaviour throughout the US as global temperatures rise. And then they looked at those cities most vulnerable.

Big increase

Top of the list were New York, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Virginia Beach and Hartford, which all could see a big increase in future risk of power cuts. The cities most likely to keep the lights burning are Memphis, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Buffalo. In fact, there is no certainty about how global warming will affect hurricane patterns. As sea surface temperatures rise above 28°C, hurricanes tend to become more likely, and there is evidence that tropical cyclones in the Northern hemisphere are increasingly likely to threaten cities once considered beyond the hazard zone. But hurricanes are capricious monsters, and how their characteristics will change with warmer atmosphere is still debated. So the scientists looked at a range of possibilities. Cities already at risk – such as Miami and New Orleans – will remain at risk. But New York and Philadelphia, and even some inland urban areas, could become susceptible to increasing storm activity. For New York – devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 – and Philadelphia, the probability of the kind of storm previously considered a once-a-century event is likely to increase by 50%. More people would lose power more often, and the worst storms could be substantially more intense.

Future hazards

The point of the research is to make civic authorities more aware of potential future hazards. “We provide insight into how power systems along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts may be affected by climate changes, including which areas should be most concerned and which ones are unlikely to see substantial change,” said Seth Guikema, a geographer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “If I’m mayor of Miami, we know about hurricanes, we know about outages, and our system has been adapted for it. But if I’m mayor of Philadelphia, I might say: ‘Whoa, we need to be doing more about this.’” – Climate News Network

Offshore wind could calm hurricanes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE US scientists say that very large wind farms could not only withstand a hurricane: they would also weaken it and so protect coastal communities. LONDON, 26 February – US engineers have thought of a new way to take the heat out of a hurricane. Fortuitously-placed offshore wind farms could make dramatic reductions in wind speeds and storm surge wave heights. Hurricanes are capricious consequences of peculiar sea temperature and wind conditions, while wind farms are the outcome of years of thoughtful design and investment, and not an emergency response to a severe weather warning. But, according to new research in Nature Climate Change, a giant wind farm off the coast of New Orleans in 2005 could have lowered the wind speeds of Hurricane Katrina by between 80 and 98 miles an hour, and decreased the storm surge by 79%. Katrina was a calamitous event that caught civic, state and federal authorities off-guard, and devastated the city. But an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast would, according to Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, and Cristina Archer and Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware, have defused its force dramatically – and turned a lot of hurricane energy into electricity at the same time. Wind turbines turn in the wind to generate energy. The laws of thermodynamics are inexorable, so a national grid’s gain is the wind’s loss, because wind energy is dissipated as it crosses a wind farm. One turbine literally takes the wind out of the sails of another.

Tempest models

One of the three Nature Climate Change authors, Cristina Archer, last year examined the geometry of a hypothetical wind farm to work out how to place turbines most efficiently to make the best of a gusty day, rather than have one bank of turbines turning furiously while the others barely stir. But this same translation of wind circulation to electrical circuitry suggested another accidental consequence. Mark Jacobson and his colleagues used sophisticated computer models to test the impact of a hurricane on a wind farm, and since the US has both cruel experience and highly detailed records of hurricane events, he and his Delaware partners decided to model three notorious tempests: Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into New York in 2012 and caused $82 billion damage in three US states, Hurricane Isaac, which hit Louisiana the same year, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “We found that when wind turbines are present, they slow down the outer rotation winds of a hurricane,” Professor Jacobson said. ”This feeds back to decrease wave height, which reduces movement of air toward the centre of the hurricane, increasing the central pressure, which in turn slows down the winds of the entire hurricane and dissipates it faster.” And Cristina Archer put it more vividly: “The little turbines can fight back the beast,” she said. Her colleague Willett Kempton added: “We always think about hurricanes and wind turbines as incompatible. But we find that, in large arrays, wind turbines have some ability to protect both themselves and coastal communities from the strongest winds.”

Double benefit

The conclusions are based entirely on computer simulations. Real world tests are for the moment unlikely, chiefly because wind farms tend to have dozens or, at the most, hundreds of turbines and the hurricane experiment was based on turbines in their tens of thousands, delivering hundreds of gigawatts. But Professor Jacobson and Dr Archer tend to think big anyway. They argued in 2012 that four million wind turbines in the world’s windiest places could generate at least half the world’s electricity needs by 2030 without interfering too greatly with global atmospheric circulation. The tempest-taming qualities of really big wind farms would deliver an added bonus: they could offer protection to vulnerable coastal cities. The costs of wind-farming on such a scale would be huge, but then the losses to coastal cities from flooding and storm damage in a rampant climate change scenario are expected to rise to $100 trillion a year by 2100. The three authors calculate that the net cost of such projects – after considering all the good things that could come from them – would be “less than today’s fossil fuel electricity generation net cost in these regions and less than the net cost of sea walls used solely to avoid storm damage.” A sea wall to protect one city might cost anything from $10 billion to $29 billion, and that is all it would do: protect that city. A really big wind farm would offer protection during cyclones, typhoons or hurricanes and generate carbon-free energy all year round. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE US scientists say that very large wind farms could not only withstand a hurricane: they would also weaken it and so protect coastal communities. LONDON, 26 February – US engineers have thought of a new way to take the heat out of a hurricane. Fortuitously-placed offshore wind farms could make dramatic reductions in wind speeds and storm surge wave heights. Hurricanes are capricious consequences of peculiar sea temperature and wind conditions, while wind farms are the outcome of years of thoughtful design and investment, and not an emergency response to a severe weather warning. But, according to new research in Nature Climate Change, a giant wind farm off the coast of New Orleans in 2005 could have lowered the wind speeds of Hurricane Katrina by between 80 and 98 miles an hour, and decreased the storm surge by 79%. Katrina was a calamitous event that caught civic, state and federal authorities off-guard, and devastated the city. But an array of 78,000 wind turbines off the coast would, according to Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, and Cristina Archer and Willett Kempton of the University of Delaware, have defused its force dramatically – and turned a lot of hurricane energy into electricity at the same time. Wind turbines turn in the wind to generate energy. The laws of thermodynamics are inexorable, so a national grid’s gain is the wind’s loss, because wind energy is dissipated as it crosses a wind farm. One turbine literally takes the wind out of the sails of another.

Tempest models

One of the three Nature Climate Change authors, Cristina Archer, last year examined the geometry of a hypothetical wind farm to work out how to place turbines most efficiently to make the best of a gusty day, rather than have one bank of turbines turning furiously while the others barely stir. But this same translation of wind circulation to electrical circuitry suggested another accidental consequence. Mark Jacobson and his colleagues used sophisticated computer models to test the impact of a hurricane on a wind farm, and since the US has both cruel experience and highly detailed records of hurricane events, he and his Delaware partners decided to model three notorious tempests: Superstorm Sandy, which slammed into New York in 2012 and caused $82 billion damage in three US states, Hurricane Isaac, which hit Louisiana the same year, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “We found that when wind turbines are present, they slow down the outer rotation winds of a hurricane,” Professor Jacobson said. ”This feeds back to decrease wave height, which reduces movement of air toward the centre of the hurricane, increasing the central pressure, which in turn slows down the winds of the entire hurricane and dissipates it faster.” And Cristina Archer put it more vividly: “The little turbines can fight back the beast,” she said. Her colleague Willett Kempton added: “We always think about hurricanes and wind turbines as incompatible. But we find that, in large arrays, wind turbines have some ability to protect both themselves and coastal communities from the strongest winds.”

Double benefit

The conclusions are based entirely on computer simulations. Real world tests are for the moment unlikely, chiefly because wind farms tend to have dozens or, at the most, hundreds of turbines and the hurricane experiment was based on turbines in their tens of thousands, delivering hundreds of gigawatts. But Professor Jacobson and Dr Archer tend to think big anyway. They argued in 2012 that four million wind turbines in the world’s windiest places could generate at least half the world’s electricity needs by 2030 without interfering too greatly with global atmospheric circulation. The tempest-taming qualities of really big wind farms would deliver an added bonus: they could offer protection to vulnerable coastal cities. The costs of wind-farming on such a scale would be huge, but then the losses to coastal cities from flooding and storm damage in a rampant climate change scenario are expected to rise to $100 trillion a year by 2100. The three authors calculate that the net cost of such projects – after considering all the good things that could come from them – would be “less than today’s fossil fuel electricity generation net cost in these regions and less than the net cost of sea walls used solely to avoid storm damage.” A sea wall to protect one city might cost anything from $10 billion to $29 billion, and that is all it would do: protect that city. A really big wind farm would offer protection during cyclones, typhoons or hurricanes and generate carbon-free energy all year round. – Climate News Network

Insurers given severe weather warning

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The rise in extreme weather events driven by warming of the oceans has led analysts in the global insurance industry to issue a warning that the sector risks being hit by waves of costly claims unless it starts pressurising governments to take action on greenhouse gas emissions LONDON, June 28 − The global insurance industry’s own analysts warn that it faces potentially serious financial losses unless it plays an active role in urging governments to address climate-change factors such as greenhouse gas emissions. The Geneva Association, a leading international insurance thinktank that examines trends in the global insurance industry, has published a report this week that identifies “a significant upward trend in the insured losses caused by extreme weather events”. It warns that changes in climate mean insurance companies have entered a new, highly uncertain era, and must adapt to what it calls a “new normal” in assessing risks and setting pricing policies. Traditional ways of assessing such risks, based solely on analysing historical data, are “increasingly failing”. The report, Warming of the Oceans and Implications for the (Re)insurance Industry, says the world’s oceans have been warming significantly as the result of rising greenhouse gas emissions − and it is this warming that is the key driver of global extreme events.

Ocean dynamics

“Understanding the changes in ocean dynamics and the complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere is the key to understanding current changes in the distribution, frequency and intensity of global extreme events relevant to the insurance industry − such as tropical cyclones, flash floods or extra-tropical storms,” the report says. The warming of the oceans means an “increased loss potential” for the insurance industry, the report says. It’s uncertain how the risk associated with the warming of the oceans and changes in climate will develop over time, but the report’s authors advocate moving from traditional data-based ways of assessing such risks to what they call predictive risk estimation methods, based on various modelling techniques. Such forecasting techniques are by no means perfect and can often give rise to  more uncertainties − although this does not mean they are not useful or scientifically sound. “It rather reflects the limits of the scientific understanding and the ability to predict extreme events in a chaotic system,” the report says.

Increased risk

The report’s authors issue a stark warning about insurance-related problems in parts of the world that are seeing increasing levels of risk matched with growing  demands for insurance, and, at the same time, decreasing levels of self-protection. Such areas might be uninsurable, the report says. “Examples for markets with this potential are UK flood or Florida wind storm insurance.” The only way to make sure such regions remain insurable is immediately to put in place risk-mitigation measures says the report. The insurance industry should distribute high-quality information about risk associated with climate change, and should encourage adaptation through innovative product design. The report concludes: “These actions, alongside the support of science in tackling the major challenges in projecting the impacts of ocean warming and climate change more generally, will help the insurance industry avoid market failures and increase societal resilience.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The rise in extreme weather events driven by warming of the oceans has led analysts in the global insurance industry to issue a warning that the sector risks being hit by waves of costly claims unless it starts pressurising governments to take action on greenhouse gas emissions LONDON, June 28 − The global insurance industry’s own analysts warn that it faces potentially serious financial losses unless it plays an active role in urging governments to address climate-change factors such as greenhouse gas emissions. The Geneva Association, a leading international insurance thinktank that examines trends in the global insurance industry, has published a report this week that identifies “a significant upward trend in the insured losses caused by extreme weather events”. It warns that changes in climate mean insurance companies have entered a new, highly uncertain era, and must adapt to what it calls a “new normal” in assessing risks and setting pricing policies. Traditional ways of assessing such risks, based solely on analysing historical data, are “increasingly failing”. The report, Warming of the Oceans and Implications for the (Re)insurance Industry, says the world’s oceans have been warming significantly as the result of rising greenhouse gas emissions − and it is this warming that is the key driver of global extreme events.

Ocean dynamics

“Understanding the changes in ocean dynamics and the complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere is the key to understanding current changes in the distribution, frequency and intensity of global extreme events relevant to the insurance industry − such as tropical cyclones, flash floods or extra-tropical storms,” the report says. The warming of the oceans means an “increased loss potential” for the insurance industry, the report says. It’s uncertain how the risk associated with the warming of the oceans and changes in climate will develop over time, but the report’s authors advocate moving from traditional data-based ways of assessing such risks to what they call predictive risk estimation methods, based on various modelling techniques. Such forecasting techniques are by no means perfect and can often give rise to  more uncertainties − although this does not mean they are not useful or scientifically sound. “It rather reflects the limits of the scientific understanding and the ability to predict extreme events in a chaotic system,” the report says.

Increased risk

The report’s authors issue a stark warning about insurance-related problems in parts of the world that are seeing increasing levels of risk matched with growing  demands for insurance, and, at the same time, decreasing levels of self-protection. Such areas might be uninsurable, the report says. “Examples for markets with this potential are UK flood or Florida wind storm insurance.” The only way to make sure such regions remain insurable is immediately to put in place risk-mitigation measures says the report. The insurance industry should distribute high-quality information about risk associated with climate change, and should encourage adaptation through innovative product design. The report concludes: “These actions, alongside the support of science in tackling the major challenges in projecting the impacts of ocean warming and climate change more generally, will help the insurance industry avoid market failures and increase societal resilience.” – Climate News Network