Robert Mendelsohn, Kerry Emanuel, Shun Chonabayashi, Laura Bakkensen

Nature Climate Change

Published date February 29, 2012

The impact of climate change on global tropical cyclone damage

We find that future increases in income are likely to double tropical cyclone damage even without climate change. Climate change is predicted to increase the frequency of high-intensity storms in selected ocean basins depending on the climate model. Climate change doubles economic damage, but the result depends on the parameters of the damage function. Almost all of the tropical cyclone damage from climate change tends to be concentrated in North America, East Asia and the Caribbean–Central American region.

This paper reveals that minimum barometric pressure predicts damages more accurately than maximum wind speed.

Climate change is expected to cause global tropical cyclone damage to increase by US$53 billion yr−1 (almost double the 2100 baseline). These aggregate global results are consistent with most of the findings in the literature concerning the effect of climate change on damage induced by tropical cyclones except for one study that predicts much smaller damages. The climate change damage is equal to 0.01% of GWP in 2100.

The results in this paper, however, reveal that the distribution of climate-change damage is not even across the world. Figure 4 shows the damage caused by climate change in each region. North America has the highest average damage of US$26 billion yr−1, which is half of the global damage. East Asia and Central America–Caribbean average damages of US$15 and US$10 billion yr−1 respectively. The increased intensities of North Atlantic and western North Pacific storms are causing these effects.  

With the present climate, almost 93% of tropical cyclone damage is caused by only 10% of the storms. Stated another way, the remaining 90% of tropical cyclones cumulatively cause only 7% of the damage. Tropical cyclone damage is a fat-tailed phenomenon, where the tail of the distribution is more influential than the body.

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