Speeding toward Global Catastrophe, disasterGlobal natural catastrophe losses reached their highest level in four years in 2016, with a big chunk coming from North American storms and other weather events, Munich Re said in its annual assessment.

The year in terms of natural catastrophe losses came down to a few sobering figures. Overall global losses reached $175 billion, more than two-thirds higher than in 2015 and almost at the $180 billion level reached in 2012. Out of that number, insured losses came in at $50 billion, with the rest encompassing uninsured losses.

In North America, statisticians recorded 160 North American natural catastrophe loss events, which Munich Re said was the highest since 1980. They accounted for $55 billion in losses, or 33 percent of natural catastrophe losses globally. Munich Re said the 2016 numbers, rather than being shocking, are a return to normal.

“After three years of relatively low nat cat losses, the figures for 2016 are back in the mid-range, where they are expected to be,” Torsten Jeworrek, a member of the Munich Re board of management, said in prepared remarks.

According to Munich Re, 54 percent of the overall North America losses for the year were insured.

Hurricane Matthew ended up being the most serious North America event, causing $10.2 billion in losses, over a third of which were insured. Munich Re noted that Haiti was the worst hit, where 550 people were killed and residents are still struggling to recover. The storm caused significant damage, however, on the U.S. East Coast.

Not far behind were floods in Louisiana and other U.S. states after massive rain, triggering about $10 billion in losses, of which about 25 percent were insured.

Canada dealt with massive wildfires in Fort McMurray and elsewhere in Alberta in May. Munich Re said that overall losses reached $4 billion, with a ratio of insured vs. uninsured losses of approximately 70 percent.

Other stats from Munich Re’s natural catastrophe assessment:

  • The North Atlantic hurricane season produced 15 named storms, above the long-term average since 1950. Munich Re said the trend was consistent with a La Nina cycle, which tends to contribute to hurricane formation.
  • Globally, there were 750 “relevant” loss events including earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves, above the 10-year average of 590. About 8,700 lives were lost due to natural catastrophes, below 25,400 lives lost in 2015 and lower than the 10-year average of 60,600.
  • Globally speaking, floods (including river flooding and flash floods) led to 34 percent of overall losses, above the 10-year average of 21 percent.

Source: Munich Re