Last year, according to a report made available by Aon, the world had to face no less than 409 natural catastrophes. These together cost the world approximately $232 billion. Even though the numbers are big, it was revealed that the costs were 20% lower than in the previous decade, and 3% lower than the average annual losses for this century.

Out of the total, $71 billion were covered by private sector and government-sponsored insurance programs, significantly lower when compared to 2018, when the same programs covered $100 billion. This makes the protection gap, which is the portion of losses not covered by insurance, 69% of the total amount. This puts 2019 on the 5th-lowers position since 2000.

From a climate point of view, 2019 was the second warmest year since 1851, both for land and ocean temperatures. Record temperatures were registered in France (46.0°C) and Germany (42.6°C), while the January – May period holds the record for the wettest period in the US, with 399 mm of rainfall.

These numbers contribute to making the previous decade the costliest on record when it comes to economic damage. This makes it worth it to take a look at the top 7 costliest natural disaster events and what they meant for the global population.
Image: Jonathan Ford on Unsplash

#7. Typhoon Lekima – China, Philippines, Japan

Causing over $9 billion in damages, Typhoon Lekima, which made its landfall on August 9th, was the second costliest typhoon in history of China and the 6th costliest Pacific typhoon ever recorded. Researchers believe that climate change made things even worse, as hurricanes are known for gaining energy from warm ocean waters. The increased air temperatures lead to increased rates of evaporation, which gave Lekima more “water vapor power” as it traveled through the oceans. All of this led to greater amounts of rain falling as the typhoon hit the lads, increasing flooding severity.

#6. Monsoon Floods – India

India seems to have been hit hard by natural disasters in 2019. First, droughts all across India have led to a major water crisis, making some of the droughted areas visible from space. People were waiting for the monsoon season, which was supposed to bring some relief, but instead, it caused massive floods. The floods killed thousands of people and displaced 2.5 million.

The total economic loss for monsoon floods in India reached $10 billion, out of which only $0.2 were insured losses. Aon states it was the hazard that brought the most human fatalities in 2019.

#5. Missouri and Mississippi Basin Floods – United States

Starting from early March, heavy rain poured on the already frozen grounds in parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. The Mississippi river quickly became a force to be reckoned with, as the affected communities were quickly overwhelmed by the situation. In June, the flooding was more intense than anyone could imagine, with 11 sates seeking federal disaster funds.

Water levels measured higher than at any time during the last 20 years, with experts calling the situation “biblical”. Climate change is believed to be an important factor that increased the damage.

The Missouri and Arkansas rivers also contributed to what became known as the wettest period in US history – the 12 months prior to June 2019. The total cost of damage is estimated to be around $125 billion.

#4. Hurricane Dorian – Bahamas, Caribbean, US, Canada

In a little bit over a day, Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive winds all over the Bahamas, with damages reaching $10 billion. Meteorologists called it the most fierce Atlantic hurricane ever to hit a populated place in recorded history and gave it a Category 6 ranking. This comes as a major surprise, especially since only 7% of observed Atlantic hurricanes ever reached Category 5 and over.

Besides the Bahamas, the hurricane also hit parts of Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia. Hurricane insurance in Florida helped reduce the damage sand covered more than 3,000 residential properties that got damaged in the hurricane, with total estimated losses in the state reaching a little over $19 million.

#3. Typhoon Faxai – Japan

Japan was hit by two strong typhoons this year, the first one being Faxai, in September 2019. The typhoon is believed to be one of the strongest storms to ever hit Tokyo for the past decades, unleashing winds that hit up to 216 km/h.

The typhoon killed at least 3 people and left over 900,000 households without power. The damage was estimated at around $10 billion, with more than half in insured losses. The cause of such massive typhoons and cyclones seems to be, again, climate change. Scientists are unanimously saying that increasing temperatures in ocean waters will only lead to more powerful cyclones and typhoons. We can expect to see speed intensifying tremendously in as little as one day. Such results make us wonder what the future will bring, as Faxai was not even the strongest Typhoon to hit Japan this year.

#2. Monsoon Floods – China

Monsoon season in China hit its peak in July last year, damaging almost 10,000 homes and transformed nearly 3.7 million hectares of farmland into unusable land. In terms of economic loss, the number reached $15 billion, out of which only $0.7 billion were insured losses.

The fact that so many hectares of perfectly usable land was completely damaged serves as proof that climate change can severely affect food production in the future.

#1. Typhoon Hagibis – Japan

Typhoon Hagibis is not only the costliest typhoon this year and the strongest to hit Japan since 1958, but the second-costliest ever recorded in history. The typhoon hit Shizuoka, Japan on October 12th, shortly after passing through the Mariana Islands. The wind speed reached 120mph and caused $15 million in damages. 85,000 homes were destroyed and 91 people lost their lives during the weekend when Typhoon Hagibis hit the lands.

The fact that many of the disasters that made this list are amongst the worst-ever recorded in the world, leads to the conclusion that warmer global temperatures have the potential to fuel even more powerful storms in the years to come.