Why Are Extreme Storms and Property Damage On The Rise?
Increase in precipitation, number of storms and property damage expected
Regardless of whether global warming is or is not the cause of climate change and the recent extremes in weather we have experienced, one thing is for sure: we can expect to see heavier rainfall, heavier snowfall, an increase in the number of severe storms and a greater potential for property damage.
Several reports have been released over the past few years that outline the trend toward more severe weather. In one report, the Environment America Research & Policy Center’s When It Rains, It Pours: Global Warming and the Increase in Extreme Precipitation from 1948 to 2011, examined trends in the frequency of and the total amount of precipitation produced by extreme rain and snow storms across the contiguous U.S. from 1948 to 2011. Using data from 3,700 weather stations and a methodology developed by scientists at the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and the Illinois State Water Survey, the report identified storms with the greatest 24-hour precipitation totals at each weather station, and analyzed when those storms occurred. The report also examined trends in the amount of precipitation produced by the largest annual storm at each weather station.
The report found that storms with extreme precipitation increased in frequency by 30% across the contiguous U.S. from 1948 to 2011. In addition, on average, the largest annual storms produced 10% more precipitation. On the state level, 43 states showed a significant trend toward more frequent storms with extreme precipitation, while only one state (Oregon) showed a significant decline.
Key findings of the report:
• Extreme rainstorms and snowstorms are becoming more frequent. There was a 30% increase in the frequency of extreme rainstorms and snowstorms from 1948 to 2011. In comparison, heavy downpours or snowstorms that happened once every 12 months, on average, in 1948 now happen every 9 months, on average.
• The New England and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country experienced the largest increases in the frequency of extreme precipitation, seeing significant increases of 85% and 55%, respectively. That means that heavy downpours or snowstorms that happened once every 12 months on average in 1948 in New England now occurred every six and a half months, on average.
• The biggest rainstorms and snowstorms are getting bigger. The amount of precipitation released by the largest annual storms increased by 10 percent from 1948 to 2011 on average nationally.
Dr. Nicholas K. Coch, a professor of geology in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Queens College, notes that hurricanes infrequently hit the Northeast, but when they do, they pack a bigger punch and are more dangerous than those that strike locations such as the Gulf Coast. “As a hurricane comes north, it undergoes a transition,” he said. “It moves faster forward and its wind field expands.” With the Northeast’s densely developed areas, the economic devastation to the region rivals the economic impact experienced by other areas.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was asked to study “the risks of extreme weather and climate events and options for managing related impacts and disasters in a changing climate.” In November 2011, the IPCC, working with 220 authors in 62 countries, published the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). Teams of authors assessed thousands of scientific, technical, and socioeconomic sources, including peer-reviewed scientific literature, industry journals, and reports from governments and international bodies.
Key findings of the report:
• It is likely that the frequency of heavy precipitation or the proportion of total rainfall from heavy falls will increase in the 21st century over many areas of the globe. This is particularly the case in the high latitudes and tropical regions, and in winter in the northern mid-latitudes.
• Heavy rainfalls associated with tropical cyclones are likely to increase with continued warming. There is medium confidence that, in some regions, increases in heavy precipitation will occur despite projected decreases in total precipitation in those regions.
• Estimates of annual losses have ranged since 1980 from a few US$ billion to above $200 billion (in 2010 dollars), with the highest value for 2005 (the year of Hurricane Katrina).
Equipped with the knowledge that storms are becoming more frequent, more severe and more expensive presents an opportunity for preparedness. As a homeowner or a business owner, there are steps you can take to ensure a smoother transition in the event of a loss. Here’s what you can do:
• Protect the lives of your loved ones and co-workers with a preparedness plan. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website at http://www.fema.gov/what-mitigation/plan-prepare.
• Perform an annual review of your insurance policy to be certain your property and its contents are adequately covered. Read the insurance policy carefully to be certain you understand all of your obligations under the policy. Create photocopies or PDFs of your policies and store them in a secure location outside of your home or business. Be sure you know how to reach your insurance company and/or agent in the event of a loss.
• Homeowners should consider adding coverage for additional living expenses. If you have to live somewhere else while your home is being repaired or reconstructed, Additional Living Expense coverage would compensate you for the additional living expenses incurred during the reconstruction period. Business owners should consider Extra Expense, Business Interruption and Business Income Insurance to help keep their business thriving during the difficult time of rebuilding.
• Select an accredited public adjuster (PA) to assist in the handling of any future claims you may have. A PA works for you, protecting your personal and business interests. A PA will inventory your loss, evaluate your insurance coverage and will relieve you of the complicated and time-consuming process of submitting official documents to the insurance company. They will work quickly on your behalf to receive the highest settlement possible.
• Inventory your personal and business property. There are many applications on the market to help inventory everything from furniture to computers. Smartphone Apps, such as Home Inventory, Compartments and PersonalInventory make it easy to photograph and document your personal and business property. Know Your Stuff® is free online home inventory software provided by the Insurance Information Institute (III). The application makes creating and updating your home inventory easy and efficient. In addition, the III provides secure online storage so you will have computer access to your inventory from anywhere in the world. Be sure to record model and serial numbers of all electronics. Photograph or keep receipts as they provide valuable information, such as item description, initial purchase price and date of purchase.
• Back-up all computer data and consider off-site or cloud back-up storage.
Visit our website at www.proflossadjuster.com to download the What To Do After A Loss checklist.
Sources: Environment America’s website http://www.environmentamerica.org/reports/ame/when-it-rains-it-pours; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change website http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/report/
—Leonard Theran, SPPA
Leonard Theran, SPPA, principal of Professional Loss Adjusters, Inc. of Newton, Massachusetts, earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Stanford University. He has more than 35 years adjusting claims. He is past-president of the Massachusetts Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters and CAI-New Hampshire. He has also qualified as an Expert Witness and has been a featured speaker before several organizations including the Risk and Insurance Management Society, the Institute of Real Estate Management and Lorman Education Services.