Published date November 11, 2019

Normalized US hurricane damage estimates using area of total destruction, 1900−2018

  • Finds that hurricanes are becoming more damaging and that the frequency of the very most damaging hurricanes has increased at a rate of 330% per century due, primarily, to global warming
  • States that hurricanes are the most destructive natural disasters in the United States and the record of economic damage from hurricanes shows a steep positive trend dominated by increases in wealth
  • This study accounts for temporal changes in exposed wealth, in a process called normalization, before comparing the destructiveness of recorded damaging storms from different areas and at different times
  • Atmospheric models predict major hurricanes to get more intense as Earth warms, and we expect this trend to eventually emerge above the natural variability in the record of normalized damage.
  • States, however, that the evidence for an increasing trend in normalized damage since 1900 has been controversial
  • Develops a record of normalized damage since 1900 based on an equivalent area of total destruction
  • Shows that this record has an improved signal-to-noise ratio over earlier normalization schemes based on calculations of present-day economic damage
  • Reveals an emergent positive trend in damage and attributes this to a detectable change in extreme storms due to global warming
  • Shows that this increasing trend in damage can also be exposed in existing normalized damage records by looking at the frequency of the largest damage events
  • Concludes that the record of normalized damage, framed in terms of an equivalent area of total destruction, is a more reliable measure for climate-related changes in extreme weather, and can be used for better risk assessments on hurricane disasters