American Society of Civil Engineers


Normalized Hurricane Damage in the United States: 1900 — 2005


by Roger A. Pielke, Jr., (Dir., Ctr. for Sci. and Technol. Policy Res., Univ. of Colorado, 1333 Grandview Ave., Campus Box 488, Boulder, CO 80309-0488. E-mail: pielke@colorado.edu), Joel Gratz, (Modeling Analyst and Meteorologist, ICAT Managers, LLC, 3665 Discovery Dr., Ste. 300, Boulder, CO 80303. E-mail: jgratz@icat.com), Christopher W. Landsea, (Meteorologist, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/TPC/Natl. Hurricane Ctr., 11691 S.W. 17th St., Miami, FL 33165-2149. E-mail: Chris.Landsea@noaa.gov), Douglas Collins, (Consulting Actuary and Prin., Tillinghast-Towers Perrin, 71 High Holborn, London WC1V 6th, U.K. E-mail: doug.collins@towersperrin.com), Mark A. Saunders, (Prof. of Climate Prediction, Dept. of Space and Climate Physics, Benfield UCL Hazard Res. Centre, Univ. Coll. London, Holmbury St. Mary, Korking, Surrey RH5 6NT, U.K. E-mail: mas@mssl.ucl.ac.uk), and Rade Musulin, (Sr. Actuary, Aon Re Australia Limited, Aon Tower, Lvl 29, 201 Kent St., Sydney, Australia. E-mail: rade.musulin@aon.com.au)

Natural Hazards Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, February 2008, pp. 29-42, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)1527-6988(2008)9:1(29))

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: After more than two decades of relatively little Atlantic hurricane activity, the past decade saw heightened hurricane activity and more than $150 billion in damage in 2004 and 2005. This paper normalizes mainland U.S. hurricane damage from 1900 — 2005 to 2005 values using two methodologies. A normalization provides an estimate of the damage that would occur if storms from the past made landfall under another year’s societal conditions. Our methods use changes in inflation and wealth at the national level and changes in population and housing units at the coastal county level. Across both normalization methods, there is no remaining trend of increasing absolute damage in the data set, which follows the lack of trends in landfall frequency or intensity observed over the twentieth century. The 1970s and 1980s were notable because of the extremely low amounts of damage compared to other decades. The decade 1996 — 2005 has the second most damage among the past 11 decades, with only the decade 1926 — 1935 surpassing its costs. Over the 106 years of record, the average annual normalized damage in the continental United States is about $10 billion under both methods. The most damaging single storm is the 1926 Great Miami storm, with $140 — 157 billion of normalized damage: the most damaging years are 1926 and 2005. Of the total damage, about 85% is accounted for by the intense hurricanes (Saffir-Simpson Categories 3, 4, and 5), yet these have comprised only 24% of the U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones. Unless action is taken to address the growing concentration of people and properties in coastal areas where hurricanes strike, damage will increase, and by a great deal, as more and wealthier people increasingly inhabit these coastal locations.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Damage
Hurricanes
United States
Economic factors
Population growth
History