News Release

January 17, 2017

Flood most damaging peril of 2016, causing nearly one-third of $210bn global economic losses - according to Aon catastrophe report

Warmest year ever recorded a major contributor to elevated weather-related losses

CHICAGO, January 17, 2017 – Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield's catastrophe model development team, today launches its 2016 Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report, which evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events that occurred worldwide during the last 12 months to promote awareness and enhance resilience. Aon Benfield is the global reinsurance intermediary and capital advisor of Aon plc (NYSE:AON).

The report reveals that there were 315 natural catastrophe events in 2016 that generated economic losses of USD210 billion. For historical context, 2016 was the seventh highest year on record with the combined economic loss exceeding the USD200 billion threshold for the first time since 2013.

The top three perils—flooding, earthquake and severe weather—combined for 72 percent of all economic losses in 2016. While at least 72 percent of catastrophe losses occurred outside of the United States, it still accounted for 56 percent of global insured losses.

Overall, just 26 percent (USD54 billion) of overall economic losses were covered by insurance in 2016 due to a higher percentage of damage occurring in areas with a lower insurance penetration. However, the public and private insurance industry losses were 8 percent above the 16-year average and the highest insured loss total since 2012. 2016 marked the end of a four-year downward trend since the record year in 2011.

There were at least 33 natural disasters that caused more than USD1.0 billion in economic damage around the globe, though just 11 of those events had insurable losses reach the same threshold. The vast majority of the billion-dollar events (29) were weather-related, and only nine had insured losses at or above USD1.0 billion.

Steve Bowen, Impact Forecasting director and meteorologist, said: "After a decline in catastrophe losses during the previous four years, 2016 marked a bit of an uptick in natural peril costs to the global economy. When recognizing that we have seen a nominal increase in both annual and individual weather disaster costs in recent decades, we recognize that factors such as climate change, more intense weather events, greater coastal exposures and population migration shifts are all contributors to the growing trend. With these parameters in place, and forecasts continuing to signal greater risk and vulnerability, it is anticipated that weather-related catastrophe losses will further increase in the coming years. The data and analysis in this report will help businesses, communities, governments and the re/insurance industry to better prepare and help mitigate the growing risks of these disasters."

Notable events driving economic and insured losses in 2016 included:

  • A series of April earthquakes in Japan was the costliest event both economically (USD38 billion in losses) and for the insurance industry (USD5.5 billion)
  • Six of the top 10 costliest insured loss events occurred in the United States, including Hurricane Matthew and multiple severe weather outbreaks
  • For the fourth consecutive year, flooding was costliest overall peril at USD63 billion (31% of the total). The most significant flood events were along the Yangtze River basin in China (USD28 billion in damage) and in the US state of Louisiana (USD15 billion in losses).
  • A notable entry into the top five insured losses was for a ‘secondary' peril – wildfire – in Fort McMurray, Canada that cost the industry nearly USD3.0 billion.
  • The United States and Asia-Pacific each experienced 13 individual billion-dollar events – compared to four in EMEA and three in the Americas.
  • The Southern part of the African continent suffered from drought conditions in the first half of 2016 as a result of El Niño phenomenon. The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, plagued by long-term economic crisis and persisting droughts, was particularly severe as millions of people were food-insecure. The government estimated the costs to be around USD1.6 billion. Tens of millions of people were also affected by the drought in Zambia, Malawi and South Africa.

Read the full 2016 Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report

Watch Steve Bowen's short film on the key findings of the report, shot in St Augustine, Florida which was impacted by Hurricane Matthew.

Access current and historical natural catastrophe data, plus event analysis, on Impact Forecasting's Catastrophe Insight website.

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