Natural Disasters

A stormy year – Natural disasters in 2017

Did you know that 83% of natural disaster losses in 2017 were in North America, although only a quarter of all catastrophes occurred there? Or that climate change is driving up crop losses from late frost in many regions? To find out more, read our summary of last year’s storms, earthquakes, floods and other disasters in the latest issue of TOPICS Geo.


Natural disasters in 2017 caused overall economic losses of US$ 340bn – the second-highest figure ever. Insurers had to pay out a record US$ 138bn in losses. A key driver of these losses were the hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which struck the USA and the Caribbean in the space of a few weeks.

Many loss events in 2017 were unusual, some even appeared to be paradoxical: For example, the 2016/2017 winter in Northern California brought more snow and rain than had been seen for many years. This caused many dormant plants to sprout and grow again, providing perfect fuel for wildfires to cause billions of dollars of losses later in the year.
Late frosts destroyed much of the fruit and wine crops in large parts of Europe. The effects of these frosts were so severe because the spring had been so warm and fruit trees had started to bloom early.

For insurers, understanding the causes of such weather extremes is a fundamental prerequisite for insuring the risks and for developing new types of cover. This latest issue of Topics Geo analyses the natural disasters of 2017 and discusses the conclusions drawn. You can download the complete issue of TOPICS Geo or read individual articles of interest on Topics Online.