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The first nine months of 2022 saw 29 multi-billion-dollar extreme weather events, with Hurricane Ian in the United States topping the list at more than US$20 billion in damage.
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The next-most expensive climate events were Europe’s $20-billion drought, followed by China’s $12-billion summer of floods, insurance broker Aon says in its latest quarterly disaster report.
Death tolls were highest in the devastating back-to-back heat waves that accompanied Europe’s drought, with more than 16,000 lives lost, reports Yale University meteorologist Jeff Masters in a post for Yale Climate Connections.
Thousands more, including many children, lost their lives in the monsoon season flooding that ravaged India (1,883) and Pakistan (1,693) from July through September.
Aon says its death counts are only approximate, and the final numbers are expected to be even higher.
“Drought damages are already US$38.4 billion globally and will surely rise,” Masters writes. “Combined with a global food crisis because of the pandemic and war in Ukraine, this was a terrible year to suffer heavy agricultural losses from extreme drought.”
That Hurricane Ian and the European drought and heat wave—both classified as “mega-disasters” for the destruction they generated—occurred in the same year is “greatly concerning,” the article states. That’s both because they illustrate an increasing trend, and because such “mega-disasters are likely to overwhelm local resources needed to respond and recover, threaten insurers with insolvency, and disrupt global supply chains.”
The shredding of all manner of safety nets was felt in the United Kingdom and Europe throughout the drought and heat waves, which together “caused significant agricultural damage, disrupted cooling systems of power plants, lowered hydropower generation, reduced shipping on several important European rivers (the Danube, Rhine, and Po), and damaged buildings as land subsided.”
Record heat also played a role in the floods that ravaged Pakistan, with record springtime heat (51°C in Jacobabad on May 14) causing faster glacier melt just before the onset of a monsoon season like no other.
“The country observed its wettest July (+180%) and wettest August (+243%) since records began in 1961,” writes Masters. “The rains were most intense in the southern provinces of Balochistan and Sindh, which had monthly rainfall anomalies of +450% and +307% in July, and +590% and +726% in August.”
The Aon report docent at least 75 glacial lake outburst floods and 90 flash flood incidents between June and September, arising from heavy glacier melting in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern Pakistan, he adds.
Aon said 20% of the nearly 1,700 deaths it attributed to flooding in Pakistan were caused by subsequent disease and malnutrition.