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Natural disasters in 2021 second-costliest on record

Hurricane Ida

Roughly $120 billion of the $280 billion of losses caused by natural disasters in 2021 were insured, Munich Re said Monday.

Last year tied 2005 and 2011 as the second-costliest ever for the insurance industry, trailing only 2017’s record $146 billion of inflation-adjusted losses. Overall losses from natural catastrophes in 2021 were the fourth highest on record.

Hurricane Ida was last year’s costliest natural disaster, causing overall losses of $65 billion, with $36 billion insured. Flash floods following extreme rainfall in Europe in July caused losses of $54 billion. The floods were the costliest natural disaster on record in Germany, Munich Re said.

Last year’s natural catastrophe losses topped 2020, which saw  $210 billion in losses including $82 billion insured, and 2019, which logged $166 billion in losses including $57 billion insured.

The U.S. saw the largest share of natural disaster losses in 2021, approximately $145 billion, of which roughly $85 billion were insured. This compares with 2020’s overall losses of $100 billion, with $67 billion insured, and 2019’s $52 billion in overall losses, with $26 billion insured.

In addition to Hurricane Ida in August, extreme cold hit the southern U.S in February. Dubbed the “Texas Freeze,” as temperatures dipped to -8°C (17°F) in Houston, the event was the year’s third-costliest natural disaster, with overall losses of $30 billion, some half of which were insured.

In December, severe convective storms across several states in the central and southeastern U.S. caused overall losses of approximately $5.2 billion, of which some $4 billion were insured.

The July 2021 flooding in Europe caused by the low-pressure system “Bernd” caused overall losses of $54 billion, including $40 billion in Germany. The insured portion — $13 billion, of which $9.7 billion was in Germany — was relatively low because of uninsured infrastructure losses and the limited insurance density for flooding in Germany, Munich Re said.

Catastrophe losses in the Asia-Pacific region, meanwhile, were  “modest,” with overall losses of $50 billion, of which $9 billion were insured.

Ernst Rauch, chief climate and geo scientist at Munich Re and head of the climate solutions unit, called the 2021 disaster statistics “striking.”