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Moving to the coast might not be a good idea. At all.

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posted on Nov, 8 2005 @ 07:39 AM
GE Insurance Solutions have just issued this press release following a symposium of experts in London:

Is it the Warming ... or Too Soon to Tell?

Experts Present Evidence on Hurricanes at GE Insurance Solutions Event

London – 7 November 2005 – The damage that hurricanes inflict will continue to rise – along with their frequency and severity, according to speakers at a recent Hurricane Symposium in London held by The Insurance Leadership Institute of GE Insurance Solutions.

The size of US hurricane losses will continue “to stagger and astound us” as a result of population growth and wealth accumulation in hurricane-prone coastal regions, according to Roger Pielke, Jr., Ph.D, Director, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado.

Other speakers at the symposium included Kerry A. Emanuel, Ph.D., a Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Joseph Chamie, Ph.D., Director of Research at the Center for Migration Studies; and Ken Slack, Senior Underwriter, Global Property, GE Insurance Solutions.

“As large as [Hurricane] Katrina was, it wasn’t unprecedented,” Pielke said, indicating that storms of such magnitude have occurred in the past, but they inflicted less damage because the coastal regions were not as densely populated as they are today.

For example, he said the unnamed hurricane that hit downtown Miami in 1926 would have cost approximately $100 billion in economic damage – if it had happened in 2004.

Further, due to changes in population and wealth, Pielke said, Hurricane Andrew would cost twice what it actually cost in 1992 – if it were to reoccur today. (The Insurance Information Institute says that Hurricane Andrew cost the insurance industry USD 21.5 billion in 2004 dollars. Pielke notes that total economic damages are generally calculated by multiplying the insured figure by two).

Ken Slack, Senior Underwriter, Global Property, GE Insurance Solutions, said the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons have reminded the insurance industry of the high frequency and severity potential of hurricanes. “We’ve had three of the top five storms in the last few months.”

He emphasized that at least three of the four hurricanes to hit the Florida coastline in 2004- Charley, Frances and Ivan – threatened far greater devastation if they had not veered at the last moment and hit less populated areas. Further, he continued, if Hurricane Rita would have equaled Hurricane Katrina in damages, the pressure on the insurance industry would have been immense.

“Katrina is the most expensive natural disaster ever,” Slack affirmed, citing one estimate that puts industry-wide insured damages at $40 billion. “For the purposes of discussion, an excess of that is very possible.

When Hurricane Rita, a storm of equal intensity, targeted the Galveston area less than a month later, Slack said, “the industry held its breath. I certainly did.”

Although the insurance industry relies heavily on catastrophe models to set its catastrophe premiums, Slack reminded the audience that models have their limits. For example, he said that each storm has its unique characteristics, which is not something that a model can account for.

“Frances and Ivan [in 2004] had about 100 tornadoes, which caused random damage that was quite catastrophic in nature,” he said. He noted that models also don’t take into account collateral damage. “A house can be damaged by a 2x4 flying through the window and if the wind gets in, the roof’s gone.”

He emphasized that he was not “belittling the use of the models in our business by any stretch. They’ve been a tremendous educational tool and a discipline we all embrace. But remember, they have limitations.”

Despite the risk to coastal regions, Joseph Chamie, Ph.D., who is a demographer, indicated there’s no end in sight to further population growth.

In 2003 about 53% of the United States, or about 153 million people lived in 673 coastal counties, Chamie said, noting that coastal populations have grown about 150% since 1960. Further, by 2008, he indicated, the total coastal population is expected to increase by approximately 7 million.

“In addition to permanent residents, there is a large swell of vacationers – holiday and weekend – coming in the winter months,” he said, noting that some counties increase from 10 to 100 fold in the winter season and one-quarter of the nation’s seasonal homes are found in the coastal areas of Florida.

He went on to say that 23 of the 25 most densely populated US counties were coastal in 2003. “A large portion of the coastal areas with high population rates are subject to inundation from hurricane storm surges,” he affirmed.

Along with the population comes the property development.

Chamie noted that from 1988 to 1993, “the value of insured property in Florida went from $565.8 billion to around $872 billion, and at the current rate of growth, this soon will pass $1 trillion.”

Several of the speakers at the symposium confirmed that scientists agree that for the foreseeable future, there will be active hurricane years for whatever reason, whether its global warming or natural cycles.

During his presentation at the symposium, Professor Emanuel discussed his studies of storm intensity, which he said are indicators that global warming may be affecting hurricane activity. He said that studies show that storm intensity has increased in parallel with increasing ocean temperatures.

Emanuel said that climatologists often rely on classical measures of tropical cyclone activity, such as the frequency of events and frequency of intense hurricanes, which may be too simplistic for a real gauge of climate change.

He explained that much of the data collected on hurricane activity during the 20th century was based more on guesswork than actual measurement – before the satellites helped with tracking beginning in the 1970s. It’s therefore difficult to make any long-term assumptions about trending, Emanuel continued.

Although this global increase in hurricane activity is very interesting, near-term assumptions about global warming and its potential effects have their limitations, especially when viewing data about US landfall of hurricanes, he indicated. (By near-term, he said he meant less than 50 years).

As a result, statistics on hurricanes that make landfall in the United States would not show any significant global warming signal for at least 50 years, Emanuel added.

(And here is the link to the above story at GE's website:

The issue of whether global warming is going on is a tough one and I, for one, believe that it is. But my question is this - are we putting ourselves in harms way by moving to the coastlines of countries like the US and the UK (And even Spain, which was hit by tropical storm Vince, which has never happened before) where we can get sideswiped by these monsters? And if we are - what next?

posted on Nov, 8 2005 @ 08:27 AM
Personally, I'll take living in the Midwest any day over the coasts of the US.
We may have tornadoes and ice storms and blizzards, and the occasional flood as more people live near flood plains, but earthquakes and hurricanes scare the bejesus out of me.

If insurance costs continue to rise, more and more will not have the insurance and will be a further drain on the government for aid when these natural tragedies occur.
At some point will we force people from living in these areas...particularly below and near sea level (such as Florida and NOLA)

Interesting post, thanks.

posted on Nov, 8 2005 @ 09:16 AM
Lol, that's why I prefer living here in the UK. It may rain a lot, but we get very few large earthquakes (we get the odd tiny tremor) and tornadoes are few and far between. Nikita, I just hope that you don't live anywhere near the New Madrid earthquake zone - that's in the middle of the USA!
Next year my girlfriend is taking me to Oregon to meet her family. The scary bit is that in her home town you can see Mt Hood to one side, Mt Baker to another, the Three Sisters off on the horizon, Mt St Helens (or rather you used to be able to see it) on the other horizon... all volcanoes! Help!

posted on Nov, 8 2005 @ 09:24 AM

Originally posted by Nikita
Personally, I'll take living in the Midwest any day over the coasts of the US.
We may have tornadoes and ice storms and blizzards, and the occasional flood as more people live near flood plains, but earthquakes and hurricanes scare the bejesus out of me.

Interesting post, thanks.

Agreed, I live in PA and we only really ever have to worry about snowstorms. No flooding, hurricanes, volcanoes, tornados, earthquakes etc.

posted on Nov, 9 2005 @ 05:29 AM
The East Coast isn't as earthquake-free as you'd think by the way. There was a 5.1 centred on Plattsburgh, New York State in April 2002, and New York City itself was hit by estimated 5.0 events in 1737 and 1884. The New York Consortium for Earthquake Loss Management estimated in 1999 that if the city was ever hit by another 5.0, then the damage bill would be 513m in structural damage and $7.6bn in total losses in the Tri-State area. Scary. Rare, okay, but still unsetlling.

posted on Nov, 9 2005 @ 05:44 AM
I am quite glad I moved to Utah from Florida... I was out of there just in the nick of time for Rita. Though it didn't hit where I was, I figured Ivan, Charley, Dennis and even the small part of Katrina that we experienced was enough.

I will admit that I had a lot of fun during the typhoons while I was stationed on Okinawa though. Every time one came by everyone in the dormitories held HUGE parties...

posted on Nov, 9 2005 @ 09:59 PM
This all suggests that the construction and related industries may be good investments....

posted on Nov, 12 2005 @ 06:40 PM

Originally posted by dave_54
This all suggests that the construction and related industries may be good investments....

True, but insurance is looking like a very bad place to invest. It could well be that many insurers will stop offering cover for places like Florida and areas like the islands off the coast off the Carolinas, because the payouts are too high and the reinsurance rates are also as high. No insurance... why bother moving there, unless you're willing to play dice for the right odds? That's the problem. To get good insurance rates, you need to pay money on a good property that can withstand a major event. How much are people willing to pay?

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