The Impact of Projected Changes in Hurricane Frequencies on U.S. Hurricane Wind and Surge Damage

Stephen Jewson aLambda Climate Research, London, United Kingdom

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Abstract

We use a simple risk model for U.S. hurricane wind and surge economic damage to investigate the impact of projected changes in the frequencies of hurricanes of different intensities due to climate change. For average annual damage, we find that changes in the frequency of category-4 storms dominate. For distributions of annual damage, we find that changes in the frequency of category-4 storms again dominate for all except the shortest return periods. Sensitivity tests show that accounting for landfall, uncertainties, and correlations leads to increases in damage estimates. When we propagate the distributions of uncertain frequency changes to give a best estimate of the changes in damage, the changes are moderate. When we pick individual scenarios from within the distributions of frequency changes, we find a significant probability of much larger changes in damage. The inputs on which our study depends are highly uncertain, and our methods are approximate, leading to high levels of uncertainty in our results. Also, the damage changes we consider are only part of the total possible change in hurricane damage due to climate change. Total damage change estimates would also need to include changes due to other factors, including possible changes in genesis, tracks, size, forward speed, sea level, rainfall, and exposure. Nevertheless, we believe that our results give important new insights into U.S. hurricane risk under climate change.

Significance Statement

We investigate how changes in the frequencies of hurricanes of different intensities as a result of climate change may contribute to changes in U.S. economic damage due to wind and surge. We find that economic damage will likely increase as a result of projected increases in the frequency of landfalling hurricanes. Analysis of our results shows that increases in the frequency of category-4 storms are the main driver of the changes. Our best estimate results, based on a multimodel ensemble, give modest increases in damage, but within the ensemble there are individual scenarios that give much larger increases in damage. The large range of individual damage estimates is a motivation for continuing efforts to reduce the uncertainty around hurricane projections under climate change.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Stephen Jewson, stephen.jewson@gmail.com

Abstract

We use a simple risk model for U.S. hurricane wind and surge economic damage to investigate the impact of projected changes in the frequencies of hurricanes of different intensities due to climate change. For average annual damage, we find that changes in the frequency of category-4 storms dominate. For distributions of annual damage, we find that changes in the frequency of category-4 storms again dominate for all except the shortest return periods. Sensitivity tests show that accounting for landfall, uncertainties, and correlations leads to increases in damage estimates. When we propagate the distributions of uncertain frequency changes to give a best estimate of the changes in damage, the changes are moderate. When we pick individual scenarios from within the distributions of frequency changes, we find a significant probability of much larger changes in damage. The inputs on which our study depends are highly uncertain, and our methods are approximate, leading to high levels of uncertainty in our results. Also, the damage changes we consider are only part of the total possible change in hurricane damage due to climate change. Total damage change estimates would also need to include changes due to other factors, including possible changes in genesis, tracks, size, forward speed, sea level, rainfall, and exposure. Nevertheless, we believe that our results give important new insights into U.S. hurricane risk under climate change.

Significance Statement

We investigate how changes in the frequencies of hurricanes of different intensities as a result of climate change may contribute to changes in U.S. economic damage due to wind and surge. We find that economic damage will likely increase as a result of projected increases in the frequency of landfalling hurricanes. Analysis of our results shows that increases in the frequency of category-4 storms are the main driver of the changes. Our best estimate results, based on a multimodel ensemble, give modest increases in damage, but within the ensemble there are individual scenarios that give much larger increases in damage. The large range of individual damage estimates is a motivation for continuing efforts to reduce the uncertainty around hurricane projections under climate change.

© 2023 American Meteorological Society. This published article is licensed under the terms of the default AMS reuse license. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Stephen Jewson, stephen.jewson@gmail.com

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