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Thunderstorms are Australia's most significant insured peril, but more research on them is needed, a university professor says.
Speaking at Aon Group Australia Ltd.'s biennial conference on Australia's Gold Coast recently, Russell Blong, director of the Natural Hazards Research Center at Sydney's Macquarie University, noted that thunderstorm losses exceed those of other natural events in Australia.
"The total insured loss for (the state of) New South Wales from thunderstorms during 1974-1997 was $2 billion Australian ($1.44 billion at the current exchange rate), higher than any other natural hazard," he said.
A Sydney thunderstorm in March 1990 produced Australia's third-largest insurance payout in history, $383 million Australian ($276.2 million at the current exchange rate).
"It is estimated that the earth has a total of 44,000 thunderstorms per day, and 100 lightning discharges per second. In New South Wales, the peak months for the number of lightning flashes detected are November to March, with the maximum daily flashes reaching 19,000.
"Despite this, we know little about these natural phenomena and the losses they cause," he said.
Wind, rain, flood, lightning and hail all cause property losses during thunderstorms, Mr. Blong said. However, the lack of hard data makes predicting the severity of such storms difficult.
Insurance companies need to collate more information to assess adequately the probable maximum losses from thunderstorms, he said.
Australian insurers and reinsurers have committed $1.4 million Australian ($1 million) to the NHRC since 1994. Only 4% of the organization's money comes from the university, with the rest coming from direct funding or commissioned research.