Overall losses from natural catastrophes totaled $110 billion in 2014, down from $140 billion in 2013, due to a lack of severe catastrophes and a quiet North Atlantic hurricane season, according to a new report from Munich Re.
Insured losses came in at about $31 billion in 2014 compared to $39 billion the prior year.
The loss amounts were well below the inflation-adjusted 10-year average of $190 billion in overall losses and $58 billion in insured losses, the company said.
In North America, overall losses of $30 billion and insured losses of $18 billion were also well below the 10-year average of $77 billion and $38 billion, respectively.
There were 7,700 fatalities related to natural catastrophes in 2014—a significant drop from 2013, which saw 21,000 fatalities, and well below the 10-year average of 97,000.
The costliest natural catastrophe of the year was Cyclone Hudhud, a Category 4 storm that hit India in October and had an overall loss of $7 billion—of which roughly $530 million was insured, according to Munich Re.
The unusually cold winter took a toll in 2014. A February snowstorm in Japan topped the list of insured losses, costing the industry $3.1 billion. Winter storm losses for the U.S. and Canada came in at $3.7 billion—$2.3 billion of which was insured—thanks to heavy frost that lasted for weeks as well as heavy snowfalls and blizzards.
The summer in Europe saw a very costly hailstorm triggered by the low pressure system Ela, which swept across France, Belgium and the western part of Germany in June. The storm cost $2.8 billion in insured losses.
The North Atlantic had an unusually quiet hurricane season, with only eight named storms compared to the long-term average of 11. In contrast, the tropical cyclone season in the eastern Pacific had an exceptionally large number of storms, most of which did not make landfall. Hurricane Odile, which moved across the Baja California peninsula, caused $1.2 billion in insured losses in Mexico and the southern U.S. A relatively large number of typhoons hit the Japanese coast, but Munich Re said losses remained small thanks to the high building and infrastructure standards in place.
Peter Höppe, head of Geo Risks Research at Munich Re, said these patterns are consistent with an emerging El Niño phase. He warned that “this could increase the frequency of tornadoes in the USA. If the El Niño phase does, in fact, end toward the middle of the year, there would be no cushioning effects from the ENSO oscillation in the main phase of the tropical storm season.”
Source: Munich Re