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Natural catastrophes caused $52 billion in insured damages in the first half of 2023 as severe convective storms wrought havoc across the U.S. and elsewhere, according to a report Tuesday from Gallagher Re, the reinsurance business of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
Total direct economic losses from natural hazards were preliminarily estimated at $138 billion.
First-half totals for weather/climate events, excluding earthquakes or other non-atmospheric-driven perils, were $46 billion in insured losses and $92 billion in economic loss.
First-half insured losses were 18% higher than the decade average of $44 billion and 39% above the 21st-century average of $38 billion, the report said.
Severe convective storms accounted for 69% of global insured natural catastrophe losses, with earthquakes a distant second at 11%, according to report data.
One “very active, multi-month pattern” spawned a series of storm outbreaks across the U.S. that caused at least $34 billion in insured losses, or 65% of all global first-half insured losses. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center recorded at least 729 individual instances of hail larger than 2.0 inches in diameter striking U.S. communities.
There were at least 17 natural catastrophe events that exceeded $1 billion in insurance payments, 13 alone in the U.S.
Steve Bowen, Gallagher Re chief science officer based in Chicago, said 2023 conditions represent a departure from the past, featuring both an El Nino weather pattern and extremely high Atlantic Ocean temperatures. “That is highly unusual. During an El Nino, we’ve never seen during our period of records, the Atlantic being this hot.”
This makes it difficult for forecasters to find “analogue years,” those with similar conditions that can be used for “some level of comparative analyses as to what might potentially happen,” Mr. Bowen said, leaving additional uncertainty over the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season.