Thursday, September 15, 2005

 

Accu-Weather Forecast (For The Rest of Your Life)

(See Update at end of original post: Sept 15th)

Here are some intriguing weather predictions which come from a somewhat improbable source. The author is not, as you might expect, Greenpeace or David Suzuki, but rather Munich Re, one of the largest insurance companies in the world. If this analysis is anything to go by, it would appear that the insurance industry is not waiting for the rest of us to decide whether or not global warming is a serious issue.

From their website:
"Munich Re Group is one of the world's largest reinsurers and the second-largest primary insurer in Germany. 5,000 insurance companies in around 160 countries rely on Munich Re's expertise and financial strength.
Among other things, we reinsure the risks of oil rigs, satellites and natural catastrophes, and those arising from the use of genetic engineering and information technology or from corporate management
."

Here are some excerpts from their assessment of the effects of global warming (published before Hurricane Katrina):

The effects of climate change:

It is indisputable that a warmer climate will lead to the atmosphere having a higher water vapour content. The upshot will not only be larger amounts of precipitation generally but also extreme rain intensities in regional or local severe weather situations especially during the summer, as observations in many places have confirmed over the past few years in particular.

The costs that arise from flood events and in connection with them must therefore be expected to increase dramatically. Particularly over dense urban areas — i.e. areas with high concentrations of values — the more intense convection may lead to local severe weather events that induce extreme precipitation intensities.

These often involve a high density of lightning strokes, hailstorms, and gale-force gusts, sometimes even tornadoes. On account of the large proportion of impervious surfaces in urban areas, the torrential rain runs straight into the drainage systems, which are not designed to cope with such volumes, with the result that underpasses, cellars, and sometimes subway tunnels are flooded with water.

Much milder and wetter winters expected:

At the same time, the trends observed in recent decades and the climate models lead us to expect much milder and wetter winters in many regions. This will have a substantial impact on the flood risk because precipitation will come in the form of rain rather than snow.

Without the buffer that snow provides, the precipitation runs off directly into rivers and streams. This effect is intensified by the fact that in winter — when the level of evaporation is low — the soil is almost completely saturated so that the surface acts as a natural impervious cover.

Furthermore, for about 30 years now, Europe has seen a distinct increase in westerly weather patterns during the winter; these are very rainy low-pressure systems that often trigger floods.

This development is due at least in part to anthropogenic global warming and is likely to continue and even accelerate in the future. As it will be impossible to reverse for decades to come, design assumptions must take into account that (the risk of) a 100-year discharge will be higher in the future.

The state
(governments), the emergency services, the population, and the insurance industry must come to terms with the fact that there will be more frequent and more catastrophic events with generally greater losses.

The full assessment is on Munich Re's website.

If you've got a strong stomach and you'd like a bit more in the same vein, you could order this book online at their website:
Weather catastrophes and climate change - Is there still hope for us?


Update to this post - Sept. 15:
TimR commented: "Munich Re lost much of its credibility when it jumped on board with the environuts in pinning blame for the Dec. 26th tsunami on climate change."

Thanks for raising this point which I have referenced and linked to here:

"The company (Munich Re) called for measures to be taken to counter the climate change that in Munich Re’s opinion was responsible for the (tsunami) disaster".

On the face of it, blaming earthquakes on global warming certainly seems to be completely assinine. However, when you dig a bit deeper, you discover yet again, the fine hand of MSM incompetence. In this case, it appears that the arbitrary condensation of Munich Re's statement, made them look like idiots to any reasoning person. In fact, the Munich Re statement actually said:

"Stefan Heyd, member of Munich Re's Board of Management stated: 'We are shocked at the scale of human tragedy in southern Asia. Many thousands of people have died, as in the devastating earthquake that hit Bam (Iran) exactly one year ago to the day. The terrible effects spreading all around the Indian Ocean and reaching as far as the Horn of Africa are a further reminder of the global threat from natural catastrophes.'

Heyd, whose responsibilities on the Board include corporate underwriting, commented on the weather extremes of 2004 stating: 'They underline our long-standing demand for prompt and rigorous measures against global climate change. After the disappointing outcome of the recent climate summit in Buenos Aires, time is running out.' "


I'll agree that insurance companies are likely to project the worst-case scenario if only to hedge their bets but it's equally obvious that insurance claims due to natural have increased dramatically in the last few years. The vast majority of economic loss is due to wind, water and fire - not earthquakes so it certainly seems to me that outright denial of the possibility of global warming as being a serious issue is somewhat shortsighted. In this case at least, incompetent journalism only makes the task that much harder.

If anyone can provide additional clarification by providing documented sources, please send it along.

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