Effects of Recent Weather Extremes on the Insurance Industry: Major Implications for the Atmospheric Sciences

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Frequent and extremely damaging severe weather conditions in the United States during 1991–94 caused $40 billion in insured losses, creating major impacts and eliciting diverse responses in the weather insurance industry. Population, one reason for the growing national sensitivity to storm damage, explained much of the increase in the number of catastrophes (property losses > $10 million) as well as the increases in the amount of losses. The largest increases in storms occurred in areas experiencing the greatest population growth (west, southwest, south, and southeast). Shifts in atmospheric variables (particularly in the frequency of extratropical cyclones) explained most of the 1949–94 fluctuations found in the intensity of catastrophic storms (losses divided by storm frequency). The property-casualty sector raised rates, made major changes in insurance availability in high-risk areas, tightened underwriting restrictions in hurricane-prone areas, and is making extensive assessments of weather risks. The reinsurance industry raised rates up to 200%, sought and received funds from the financial markets, and developed new firms. However, some existing firms also withdrew from the marketplace. Crop losses led to major changes in the nation's crop insurance program. The property casualty and reinsurance sectors, which experienced the greatest losses, have gained a greater appreciation of the need to incorporate atmospheric data, information, and expertise into their operations. Assessment of the problems created by recent weather extremes and possible solutions identified ways that the atmospheric sciences community and industry can work together more effectively to deal with future climate conditions and weather extremes.

*Changnon Climatologist, Mahomet, Illinois.

+Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, Illinois.

#Crop Insurance Consultant, Goreville, Illinois.

@Insurance Broker Consultant, Wheaton, Illinois.

&Property Insurance Consultant, Northbrook, Illinois.

**Guy Carpenter and Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Stanley A. Changnon, Changnon Climatologist, 801 Buckthorn Circle, Mahomet, IL 61853.

Frequent and extremely damaging severe weather conditions in the United States during 1991–94 caused $40 billion in insured losses, creating major impacts and eliciting diverse responses in the weather insurance industry. Population, one reason for the growing national sensitivity to storm damage, explained much of the increase in the number of catastrophes (property losses > $10 million) as well as the increases in the amount of losses. The largest increases in storms occurred in areas experiencing the greatest population growth (west, southwest, south, and southeast). Shifts in atmospheric variables (particularly in the frequency of extratropical cyclones) explained most of the 1949–94 fluctuations found in the intensity of catastrophic storms (losses divided by storm frequency). The property-casualty sector raised rates, made major changes in insurance availability in high-risk areas, tightened underwriting restrictions in hurricane-prone areas, and is making extensive assessments of weather risks. The reinsurance industry raised rates up to 200%, sought and received funds from the financial markets, and developed new firms. However, some existing firms also withdrew from the marketplace. Crop losses led to major changes in the nation's crop insurance program. The property casualty and reinsurance sectors, which experienced the greatest losses, have gained a greater appreciation of the need to incorporate atmospheric data, information, and expertise into their operations. Assessment of the problems created by recent weather extremes and possible solutions identified ways that the atmospheric sciences community and industry can work together more effectively to deal with future climate conditions and weather extremes.

*Changnon Climatologist, Mahomet, Illinois.

+Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, Illinois.

#Crop Insurance Consultant, Goreville, Illinois.

@Insurance Broker Consultant, Wheaton, Illinois.

&Property Insurance Consultant, Northbrook, Illinois.

**Guy Carpenter and Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Stanley A. Changnon, Changnon Climatologist, 801 Buckthorn Circle, Mahomet, IL 61853.
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