The rise of more destructive thunderstorms

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Houston is facing a recovery bill of billions of dollars from recent storms that brought hurricane-force winds through its downtown, leading to significant damage. The frequency of billion-dollar thunderstorms in the United States is on the rise, data indicates.

Historically, hurricanes, floods, and winter storms were the main contributors to the list of billion-dollar weather disasters. However, the trend has shifted towards thunderstorms, some accompanied by tornadoes, causing a spike in property damage and insurance claims nationwide.

The intensification of damaging storms is partly attributed to increased energy, instability, and moisture in the atmosphere, fueled by global warming. These conducive conditions occur more frequently due to human activities that trap heat with greenhouse gas emissions.

Apart from climate factors, the increase in storm damage can also be attributed to urban development, which has placed more infrastructure at risk of tornadoes, hail, and high winds compared to previous decades.

The expansion of urban areas, like in the case of Houston, has increased the vulnerability to storm damage, with more structures now in harm’s way than before due to rapid development.

Rise in billion-dollar disasters driven by thunderstorms

The number of billion-dollar weather disasters has significantly increased in recent years, with thunderstorm events being a major contributing factor to this rise, accounting for a substantial portion of the costs incurred.

Thunderstorms have been responsible for a significant number of costly disasters, with their impact particularly evident in the past decade, highlighting their growing destructive potential.

In the current year alone, several billion-dollar thunderstorm events have already been recorded by NOAA by early May, reinforcing the increasing trend.

Growing impact of hail on communities

As populations expand in areas prone to severe storms, such as hail, the likelihood of damage from these events has also increased, as observed by experts tracking these occurrences.

Urban sprawl has created a larger area of impact for storms, making it easier for them to cause widespread damage, exemplified by scenarios where a tornado today could affect significantly more homes compared to decades ago due to increased housing density.

<divThe increase in damaging storms is influenced by climate change, but urban expansion into high-risk areas is also a significant factor contributing to the rise in impacts, according to Steve Bowen. Hail damage trends highlight our vulnerability to such events. Bowen emphasized that the expansion of urban footprints in risky zones heightens the likelihood of damage, especially when coupled with the intensification of events due to climate change.
Bowen noted that insured storm damage losses in the United States have consistently exceeded $20 billion for the past nine years. Hail damage has accounted for a substantial portion of these losses, ranging from 50 to 80% annually, as reported by Gallagher Re data.
Dealing with hail damage can be particularly expensive, especially when it necessitates repairs like new roofs or siding. Bowen underlined that while significant losses can occur from massive tornado outbreaks, hail remains a primary driver of such expenses.
Additionally, a correction was issued regarding the number of consecutive years with insured storm damage losses surpassing $20 billion, clarifying that this year is likely the ninth year, not the tenth.

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