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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Increased hurricane losses due to growing population and wealth in coastal areas
A team of scientists has found that the increase in economic damages from hurricanes in the USA is due to greater population, infrastructure, and wealth along US coastlines – not due to a spike in the number or intensity of hurricanes. In a paper recently published in the Natural Hazards Review, the researchers found that economic hurricane damage in the United States has been doubling every ten to 15 years. If more people continue to move to the hurricane-prone coastline, future economic hurricane losses may be far greater than previously thought. The team used two different approaches, which gave similar results, to estimate the economic damages of historical hurricanes if they were to strike today. Both methods used changes in inflation and wealth at the national level. The first method used population increases at the county coastal level, while the second used changes in housing units at the county coastal level. The results illustrate the effects of the tremendous pace of growth in vulnerable hurricane areas. For example, if the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane were to hit today, the study estimated it would cause the largest losses at $140 billion to $157 billion, with Hurricane Katrina second on the list at $81 billion. The team concluded that potential damage from storms – currently about $10 billion yearly – is growing at a rate that may place severe burdens on exposed communities and that avoiding huge losses will require a change in the rate of population growth in coastal areas, major improvements in construction standards, or other mitigation actions. The Natural Hazards Review paper, titled “Normalized hurricane damage in the United States: 1900-2005,” was authored by Roger A. Pielke, Jr (University of Colorado), Joel Gratz (ICAT Managers, Inc.), Chris Landsea (NOAA’s National Hurricane Center), Douglas Collins (Tillinghast-Towers Perrin), Mark A. Saunders (University College London), and Rade Musulin (Aon Re Australia).
To read the full NOAA press release, visit www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2008/20080222_hurricane.html
The paper may be accessed at http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2476-2008.02.pdf or via the Natural Hazards Review web site at http://scitation.aip.org/nho
(Extracted from Natural Hazards Observer, May 2008.)