Japan Snowstorm 2014Last week Munich Re announced that natural catastrophes caused some $42 billion in damages in the first half of the year, less than half the latest 10-year average. Of those damages, total insured losses were $17 billion. To compare, the average of the past 10 years was $95 billion total and $25 billion in insured losses, according to the company report.

Snow storms were a significant source of economic damages.

  • In February two snowstorms hit Tokyo and central Japan, causing overall losses of over $5 billion, making them the most costly natural disaster of the year.
  • Heavy snowfall of over one meter is rare in most parts of Japan, and the storms resulted in many accidents as well as collapsed roofs and greenhouses, Munich Re said.
  • Blizzards in North America also took a toll, causing some businesses to halt production, with losses of $3.4 billion in the first half.

By contrast, Europe had a mild winter with little snow and above-average temperatures, but floods in England caused $1.3 billion in damages.

Scientists in Munich Re’s geographical risk department said the weather extremes are linked.

And as you might expect, natural disasters caused far fewer deaths in the first half of 2014 – a total of 2,700, compared with a 10-year average of 53,000 for January to June.

For the second half of the year, Munich Re warned that the prolonged warming of surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean known as El Nino may impact the intensity of weather extremes. The researchers also concluded by saying that the overall risk situation has not changed and loss-minimization measures remain indispensable.