Losses from Natural Disasters Decline in 2009

Petra Löw | Mar 25, 2010

In 2009, some 860 natural catastrophes occurred worldwide.1 Given the 750 disasters registered in 2008, this represented an increase of 15 percent.2 Last year had the fourth highest number of events in the period from 1980 to 2009.3

Some 92 percent of last year’s events were weather-related disasters (compared with 82 percent in 2008): 42 percent were storms, 38 percent were floods, and 12 percent were other weather-related events, such as heat and cold waves, winter damage, droughts, and wildfires. The other 8 percent of total catastrophes in 2009 were geophysical events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, or subsidence.4 This percentage distribution is in line with the long-term averages for these categories.5 (See Figure 1.)

In 2009, overall economic losses from natural disasters totaled about $50 billion—the lowest since 2001—with insured losses at about $22 billion.6 (See Figure 2.) Some 88 percent of the total losses and 98 percent of the insured ones were weather-related.7 Only in the early 1980s and in the years 2000 and 2001 have overall losses been this low, when adjusted for inflation.8 The natural catastrophe figures for 2009 were marked by losses due to severe weather in areas with a high prevalence of insurance.9

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