Global insured losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters totaled $45 billion in 2013, down from $81 billion in 2012, according to the latest sigma study from Swiss Re.

Of the 2013 insured losses, $37 billion were generated by 150 natural catastrophes, including hail in Europe and floods in many regions.

Total economic losses from catastrophic events in 2013 were $140 billion, down from $196 billion in 2012 and well below the 10-year average of $190 billion.

Disaster events killed around 26,000 people in 2013 compared to 14,000 the previous year.

Europe suffered the two most expensive natural disaster events in 2013. Massive flooding in central and eastern Europe in May and June caused large-scale damage across Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Total economic losses were $16.5 billion, and the insured loss was $4.1 billion. In late July, severe hailstorms hit France and heavily populated areas of Germany, causing insured losses totaling $3.8 billion—the largest ever from a hail event.

Asia was hardest hit by natural catastrophes in terms of economic losses and victims. June flooding in the state of Uttarakhand in India claimed some 6,000 lives. In November, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines brought some of the strongest winds ever recorded, alongside heavy rains and storm surges. Around 7,500 people died or went missing, and more than four million were left homeless.

Many regions around the world were hit by floods in 2013. The single largest loss event in North America was extensive flooding in Calgary, Alberta and the surrounding area following six days of torrential rain. The economic loss was $4.7 billion, with an insured loss of $1.9 billion. Floods also generated losses in Australia, Asia and South America.

The U.S. was hit by 891 tornadoes in 2013, according to the Storm Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—well below the yearly average of 1,300 since 1990. Insured losses from the tornadoes and related thunderstorms are estimated at $10 billion. The most devastating was an EF5 that hit Moore, Okla. on May 20, killing 24 people and generating insured losses of $1.8 billion.

The North Atlantic hurricane season produced 13 named storms, only two of which reached hurricane status—the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982.

The Effects of Climate Change

The sigma study included a special chapter on climate change.

Rising temperatures are expected to lead to more frequent and severe extreme weather events in the future. Along the U.S. Gulf Coast, for example, the economic loss potential of climate change may rise to $21.5 billion per annum by 2030.

However, “a number of cost-efficient adaptation measures are available, and these together could lower damages by 35 percent,” says David Bresch, global head of sustainability at Swiss Re. “Among the most attractive adaptation measures are beach nourishment, levees, roof cover retrofits and improved building codes.”

Source: Swiss Re