Insured losses caused by natural catastrophes in the first half of 2014 totaled about $17 billion, up from about $11 billion for the comparable period last year but below the 10-year average of $25 billion, according to statistics published Wednesday by Munich Reinsurance Co.
Natural catastrophes caused economic losses of $42 billion in the six months to the end of June 2014, Munich Re said, down from about $45 billion for the first six months of last year.
According to Munich Re, 35% of those economic losses occurred in the United States, 30% in Asia and 30% in Europe.
The most costly natural catastrophe in the first half of the year was two snowstorms in Japan that caused an overall loss of about $5 billion and an insured loss of more than $2.5 billion, according to Munich Re.
Snowstorms in the United States and Canada also caused large losses, Munich Re noted.
The most costly U.S. snowstorm occurred during the first week of January and caused insured losses of about $1.7 billion, Munich Re said.
A mild winter in Europe contributed to heavy flooding in England that resulted in insured losses of about $1.1 billion, according to Munich Re.
A storm front in Belgium and France in June caused insured losses of about $2.5 billion, according to Munich Re, while the same storm front resulted in insured losses of about $890 million in Germany.
Heavy flooding in the Balkans in May caused economic losses of about $4 billion, Munich Re noted, but low insurance penetration means that insured losses are small, it said.
Jet stream pattern caused extremes
“These extremes — with heavy winter conditions in North America and Asia and the extraordinarily mild winter across parts of Europe — were due to significant and lengthy meanders in the jet stream,” said Peter Hoppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks research unit.
“And scientists are still having intense debates about whether such sustained changes to patterns in the jet stream — and therefore also the frequency of such extreme and persistent weather conditions — might increase in future due to climate change,” he added.