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.