In 2016, the United States had 19 separate severe flood events, the most in a single year since records began in 1980. The data comes from Munich RE, a global reinsurance company.
In total, there were 91 weather, climate or geological disasters in the United States in 2016, the second-most on record, the company said. This includes severe storms, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, heat waves and droughts. Across the North American continent, there were 160 natural disasters reported, the most on record.
To qualify as a natural disaster, or "loss event," the event must have at least one death or at least US$ 3 million in damage.
The worst flood in the US was in August in Louisiana, when at least 13 people were killed and roughly 60 000 buildings were destroyed. That disaster cost US$ 10 billion and became the worst natural disaster in the US since Hurricane "Sandy" in 2012. Other major flood disasters in 2016 included those in West Virginia in June, Houston in April and Maryland in July.
"We had a lot of severe flash floods in heavily developed areas," said meteorologist Mark Bove of Munich RE and added that losses due to thunderstorm events are increasing.
Looking at the global level, there were 750 natural disasters in 2016, which is the highest number in four years, the company said. Global disasters cost $175 billion in 2016, of which only $50 billion was insured, it said.
"A number of devastating earthquakes and powerful storms made 2016 the costliest twelve months for natural catastrophe losses in the last four years. Losses totaled US$ 175 billion, a good two-thirds more than in the previous year, and very nearly as high as the figure for 2012 (US$ 180 billion)."
The world's costliest natural disasters in 2016 were a pair of earthquakes in Japan in April (which cost US$ 31 billion) and floods in China in June and July (US$ 20 billion).
“After three years of relatively low nat cat losses, the figures for 2016 are back in the mid-range, where they are expected to be. Losses in a single year are obviously random and cannot be seen as a trend,” said member of the Board of Management Torsten Jeworrek.
“A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change," said Peter Höppe, head of Munich RE’s Geo Risks Research Unit.
"Of course, individual events themselves can never be attributed directly to climate change, but there are now many indications that certain events – such as persistent weather systems or storms bringing torrential rain and hail – are more likely to occur in certain regions as a result of climate change," he concluded.
Featured image: Flood in Louisiana, United States - August 2016. Credit: Civil Air Patrol