The year 2019 saw several Nat CAT take place globally causing substantial economic losses, damage to critical infrastructure and loss of lives. However, a recent Willis Re research report found that insured losses from major Nat CAT in 2019 which totalled roughly $53bn was actually about 18% lower than the annual average since 2011
Despite this being a lower than average year compared to the previous decade, we have still seen some extreme and unusual events, including back-to-back typhoon losses in Japan, and the large number and scale of bushfires in Australia,” said Willis Re International head of catastrophe analytics Karl Jones on the findings.
In 2017, total insured losses had reached a peak of $143bn – a much higher amount in comparison to 2019 – according to the ‘Summary of Natural Catastrophe Events 2019’ published by Willis Re, the reinsurance division of global broker Willis Towers Watson.
In 2018, total losses were also higher at $80.5bn as shown in the table below.
Table: Willis Re estimates of Nat CAT losses, presented in US dollars at 1 December exchange rates for the year reported
Insured losses from natural catastrophes since 2011
The total loss figure in 2019 arises from a series of smaller and medium-sized events, since no extremely large Nat CAT losses were incurred.
In contrast, the annual average of $65bn is driven upwards by peak annual losses of $120bn in 2011 and $143bn in 2017, which each brought multiple $10bn+ events. When the average excludes these peak years, the 2019 total is 14% above the annual average.
On a global level, North America had the largest insured catastrophe-loss bill with around 46% of the global total in 2019, closely followed by Asia Pacific with 38%.
The largest insured catastrophe losses in 2019 were in Japan, where tropical cyclones Faxai in September and Hagibis in October delivered insured losses of circa $7bn and $8bn respectively.
In the US, the largest events were hurricane Dorian with wide-ranging loss estimates and a thunderstorm affecting the high and central plains and the eastern US, which brought insured losses of between $3bn and $4bn.
In other parts of the world, no billion-dollar losses occurred.
At year-end, the total reported loss cost of Australia’s wildfires, which straddled 2019/20, had reached roughly $900m. The report said the loss now exceeds $1bn based on current exchange rates, so the 2019 share of the total may reach the billion-dollar threshold as further claims and their dates of loss are reported.