U.S. Tornadoes as Deadly, Costly as Hurricanes: Lloyd’s

Pedestrians walk by the debris of vehicles and homes in front of Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Ala. on Thursday March 1, 2007, after a suspected tornado destroyed many homes and part of the school. (AP Photo/Mari Darr Welch) Pedestrians walk by the debris of vehicles and homes in front of Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Ala. on Thursday March 1, 2007, after a suspected tornado destroyed many homes and part of the school. (AP Photo/Mari Darr Welch)

Each year in the U.S., 1,200 tornadoes on average kill 60 people, injure 1,500, and cause roughly $400 million in damages, putting long-term average tornado losses on par with hurricanes, according to a new report by Lloyd’s of London.

“Tornadoes: A Rising Risk?” finds that the U.S. experiences more tornadoes than anywhere else in the world. The year 2011 was especially vicious, with a record-breaking 1,600 tornadoes causing more than $25 billion in damages, surpassing records for the most tornadoes in a single month and daily.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Although the number of tornado reports has increased by an average of 14 percent per year since the mid-1950s, much of this is attributable to improved tracking and communication, not necessarily an increase in incidents.
  • With urbanization creeping into formerly rural areas, tornadoes are more likely to hit densely populated areas and cause more damages, as evidenced in the increase in the number of billion-dollar events.
  • Annual aggregate losses from severe thunderstorms, including tornadoes, account for more than half of all catastrophe losses since 1990. The main insurance classes affected are property, motor and agriculture. 
  • Between 1980 and 2011, 43 percent of windstorms losses were attributed to severe thunderstorms, compared with 50 percent for tropical cyclones.
  • Although technology has become more sophisticated, it’s still difficult to predict and detect tornadoes, resulting in relatively short lead times.
  • The El Nino and La Nina phases have a long-term effect on tornado activity, with El Nino minimizing the risks. The two devastating outbreaks of 2011 tornadoes occurred during a La Nina phase.
  • The correlation between climate change and tornado activity is still unclear. Climate models are currently unable to resolve small-scale phenomena like tornadoes, and no models exist which can use climate model data to predict future tornado activity.

Find a complete copy of the study here

 

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