The Elie tornado as it was approaching the town of Elie, Manitoba, during the late afternoon/early evening hours of June 22, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia
20 Sep 2021

Extreme weather is costing billions - and the costs are expected to keep increasing

Hurricanes and other extreme weather phenomena are normal at this time of year in many parts of the world. However, the intensity and the costs of the damage has been increasing over the last 40 years. With climate change, we can also expect the frequency and intensity of extreme weather to increase.  

Hurricane Nicholas put many US states in a state of emergency last week. However, Nicholas was later downgraded to a storm and caused large  power outages but no deaths.

Hurricane Nicholas was one of many devastating seasonal storms in the US and Mexico this fall. The total costs for storms and floods this year in the US alone is over 100 billion dollars for 2021. 

US president Joe Biden recently travelled to the three areas most affected by this season´s  extreme weather. On Monday, he stated that last year's costs were already almost $ 99 billion and he warns that the costs are likely to increase, as extreme weather is expected to get worse over time. 

"Even if it does not happen to you, you will feel the effects", said Biden.

 

Storms and hurricanes are often natural  - but fuelled in intensity by climate change

Although it is normal for the US and Mexico to experience storms, hurricanes and cyclones at this time of year, many scientists believe that climate change is affecting how these weather phenomena are behaving, especially in very localised areas where the effects can be more extreme and concentrated than what the population is used to. They storms also tend to last longer in any particular area than before. 

According to a recently published UN report, the number of hurricanes or cyclones between categories three and five has increased over the past forty years due to higher sea temperatures. For each degree of temperature increase, the intensity of the hurricanes also increases, in addition, the likelihood of large amounts of rain increases, writes CNN.

Climate change can also affect how hurricanes behave. The current scientific explanation is that the oceans bind the heat from the heating atmosphere, and especially in the Fall and in the Northern hemisphere, warmer oceans contribute to intensify hurricanes.

 

Storms intensify faster and with less notice to evacuate

Hurricane Ida is a typical example of how many meterologists believe  the storms of the future will be acting. Before Ida reached the state of Louisiana, it intensified rapidly for a brief moment, and during 24 hours the wind speed increased by 29 meters per second. (64 miles per hour).  15 meters per second of increase in one day is usually considered intense, and Ida almost doubled that number. 

Another worrying pattern according to meteorologists is that hurricanes are getting wetter and slower to pass. In parts of Louisiana, Ida caused 380 millimeters of rain and then moved northeast, continuing to cause heavy rainfall.

 

Interrupted oceanic currents can cause more intense localised rainfall

When the atmosphere gets warmer it can hold more water vapor, leading to heavier and more rain. As the Gulf Stream and other oceanic currents are interrupted by the melting polar caps, normal wind patterns are also changed. This can mean that storms take other routes than what we are used to. We can also expect that storms stay in one place longer than what we are used to - like in the case of the flooding in Germany and The Netherlands this summer

 

Damages for half a trillion in four decades in Europe - 6 billions from Storm Bernd alone 

According to a 2019 article on  Euroactiv.com, floods, droughts, heatwaves and other climate-related extremes caused economic losses of €453 billion between 1980 and 2017, claiming the lives of more than 115,000 people across Europe.

According to World Today News, The German insurers expect damage of up to 5.7 billion euros after the flood disaster in the Rhineland and the Eifel. This is the result of a recent survey by the German financial regulator Bafin. In addition, German reinsurers expect a net burden of around one billion euros in the worst case.

According to data published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on Tuesday (2 April), the 33 European Economic Area countries have experienced a collective loss of €13 billion a year since the turn of the second decade of the new millenium

Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom topped the list of the countries most hard-hit by the damages. France recorded the highest number of fatalities, with 23,415 lives lost since 1980.

Photo Credit: The Elie tornado as it was approaching the town of Elie, Manitoba, during the late afternoon/early evening hours of June 22, 2007. Photo: Wikipedia