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Winter weather results in $4bn+ global economic loss in January: Aon


Severe winter weather has resulted in over $4 billion of economic losses around the globe in January 2016, with at least $2 billion resulting from the severe winter storm that impacted the U.S. northeast, according to Aon.

The bill from January’s global catastrophe and severe weather events will be lower than that seen in December, but the trend for more frequent loss events appears to be continuing, as the winter of 2015/16 takes an increasing toll around the world.

Impact Forecasting, reinsurance broker Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team, reports that globally economic losses from January’s events are expected to surpass the $4 billion mark, while in the U.S. they will surpass $2 billion.

The powerful winter storm (Jonas) that struck the eastern U.S. during January brought record levels of snowfall, high winds, coastal flooding, freezing rain, ice, sleet, and severe thunderstorms, resulting in the deaths of 58 people and injuring dozens of others.

The event was rated the fourth-largest winter storm in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic since the 1950s by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). However the insured loss impact is expected to not be as severe as initially forecast, although some uncertainty over business interruption claims is expected.

Total economic losses have been estimated as likely to exceed $2 billion, while Impact Forecasting reports that insured losses both from private and public entities are expected to reach well into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Severe winter weather around the world took its toll in January, with a prolonged period of Arctic cold and snowfall affecting much of East Asia causing significant damage and impacting travel, Impact Forecasting says. At least 116 people were killed across Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and China.

Total combined economic losses from the event were cited at nearly $2 billion, with China incurring CNY10.6 billion ($1.6 billion) of the total cost demonstrating the exposure that the rapidly developed economy of China has to weather events.

Adam Podlaha, Head of Impact Forecasting, commented; “Winter in the Northern Hemisphere was on full display to begin 2016, with several winter storm events impacting parts of the United States, Asia and Europe. Despite winter weather historically not being one of the costliest perils when compared to tropical cyclones or flooding, these winter events can still pose billion-dollar costs to the global economy. The peril continues to be of interest to the insurance industry as claims resulting from heavy snow or ice often quickly accumulate.”

Winter weather resulted in much more insurance and reinsurance industry losses last year, due to the polar vortex events that froze the U.S. north and northeast for considerable periods of the winter. This winter has been less severe, although is still resulting in considerable economic impact.

Other natural catastrophe and severe weather events that occurred in January and add to the tally include:

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  • Windstorm Marita, also known locally as Gertrude, which impacted areas of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scandinavia, resulting in total economic and insured losses expected to exceed USD100 million.
  • A series of Pacific storm systems fueled by El Niño, which brought heavy rainfall, snow and isolated severe weather to portions of California in early January. Total economic losses were estimated to exceed USD125 million; while public and private insurers listed payouts in excess of USD65 million.
  • Heavy rains, which impacted parts of Brazil and Ecuador, killing at least 12 people and destroying more than 15,000 homes. Total combined economic losses were in excess of USD110 million.
  • A magnitude-6.7 earthquake, which struck northeast India on January 3, killing at least 22 people and injuring around 300 others. Total economic losses were beyond INR5.0 billion (USD75 million).
  • The Waroona Fire in Western Australia, which killed at least two people and destroyed 180 structures in the hardest-hit communities of Yarloop, Waroona, Hamel, and Cookenup. The Insurance Council of Australia declared cited insured losses minimally at AUD57 million (USD42 million).
  • Drought conditions in South Africa, which caused agricultural damage of around ZAR4.0 billion (USD250 million).
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