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As the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season moves into high gear, concern about catastrophe risk looms large in a year that has already featured an unusual level of activity, including a massive earthquake in Chile, a powerful winter windstorm in Europe, and an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Munich Re estimates insured losses for global catastrophes at $23 billion for the first six months of 2010, the highest for that time period since 1994, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That far exceeds the 10-year average of $11 billion. In the U.S., catastrophe losses have more than doubled over the last decade to $193 billion, up 117 percent from the $89 billion from the 1990s, according to the III. If this trend continues, the next decade is likely to be even more disastrous than this one, with III predicting a year with $100 billion in insured catastrophe losses certain to come in the future. The rise in U.S. catastrophe losses is driven in part by dramatic increases in development in places vulnerable to hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires.

Related: Read “2010 hurricane season: Keeping the promise.”

In this volatile environment, catastrophe models play an important role for insurers and for agents and brokers seeking to help property owners manage their catastrophe risk.

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