Monday, March 01, 2010

Environmental Signals in Property Damage Losses

The strongest Atlantic hurricanes are getting stronger as ocean temperatures warm (Elsner et al. 2008) and the strengthening is expected to continue (Knutson et al. 2010). However, along the U.S. coast the intensity of hurricanes has not gone up and there is considerable debate about potential future damage losses from these catastrophic events. Here we model the historical damage losses and show the magnitude of losses at a return period of 50 years is largest under a scenario featuring a warm Atlantic Ocean, a weak North Atlantic surface pressure gradient, El Nino, and few sunspots. Results are consistent with our current understanding of hurricane climate variability and they suggest a future of greater long-term loss potential if seas continue to warm.

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