Economic costs of 2018’s 394 natural catastrophe events came to $225 billion with insurance covering $90 billion of the overall total. The results reflect the fourth costliest year on record of insured losses, according to Aon’s “Weather, Climate & Catastrophe Insight – 2018 Insight Report.”

This means the insurance protection gap, which is the portion of economic losses not covered by private sector or government-sponsored insurance programs, was 60 percent, said the report, noting that the protection gap was at its lowest level since 2005.

The biggest driver of catastrophes in 2018 was the tropical cyclone peril following several significant landfalling storms, which included Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Florence (United States); Typhoon Jebi and Typhoon Trami (Japan): Typhoon Mangkhut (Philippines, Hong Kong, China), and Typhoon Rumbia (China).

Indeed, $89 billion of the overall insured price tag of $90 billion came from weather-related disasters, said Aon.

The report noted that 2017 and 2018 brought the costliest back-to-back years on record for both economic losses ($653 billion) solely due to weather-related events, and for insured losses across all perils ($237 billion).

Andy Marcell, CEO of Aon’s Reinsurance Solutions business said that 2018 was another active year for global natural disasters.

“While there was not a singular ‘mega’ catastrophe event, there were 42 billion-dollar events which aggregated to a slightly above-average year,” Marcell said in prepared remarks. “The [insurance/reinsurance] industry continues to withstand the payouts backed up with $595 billion of capital but focus on managing the cost of changing climate and weather events by helping to close the protection gap.”

Additional major events during the year included a series of major wildfires in Northern and Southern California. The costliest insured loss event of 2018 was the Camp Fire at $12 billion, which also became California’s deadliest and most destructive fire on record, said Aon.

“Among the takeaways from the events of 2018 was the recognition that catastrophe risk continues to evolve,” said Steve Bowen, director and Meteorologist at Aon’s Impact Forecasting team.

“The complex combination of socioeconomics, shifts in population and exposure into vulnerable locations, plus a changing climate contributing to more volatile weather patterns, is forcing new conversations to sufficiently handle the need for mitigation and resilience measures,” he added. “Natural disasters are always going to occur. How well we prepare can and will play a key role in future event losses.”

Aon provided a list of other significant regional events during the year, which included:

  • October’s Camp Fire in the U.S. destroyed 18,804 structures, including most of the city of Paradise. Total economic costs were estimated to approach $15 billion. Overall insured losses from wildfires in California set a new record for the second year in a row, burning 82 million acres, which set another record for the state.
  • In Japan, torrential rains during the month of July led to catastrophic flooding across much of the country with total damage nearing $10 billion. Combined insured losses from Japan’s typhoon, flood and earthquake events totaled $15 billion.
  • A multi-billion-dollar flood occurred in India’s state of Kerala during the seasonal summer monsoon months.
  • Much of Northern and Central Europe endured prolonged summer drought conditions as aggregate costs, mostly to agriculture, which tallied to near $9 billion. Multi-billion-dollar drought events also affected the United States, Argentina, China and India.
  • A significant stretch of severe weather and flooding affected Italy and Austria in October and November, as the economic toll topped $5 billion.
  • Reaching $2.1 billion of insured losses, Windstorm Friederike was the fifth-costliest European windstorm of the 21st

The Aon report included additional notable statistics including:

  • 42 individual billion-dollar natural disaster events occurred in 2018, which was above the average of 31 events dating to 2000 and higher than the 36 events in 2017.
  • 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record, dating to 1880, and was the second warmest year (behind 2017) without the direct influence of an El Niño event.
  • 64 percent of 2018 global insured losses incurred in the United States.

Source: Aon’s Reinsurance Solutions

*A version of this story appeared previously in our sister publication Insurance Journal.