Under the best of circumstances, the Atlantic hurricane season is a challenging time. Despite improved forecasting and analysis tools, pre-storm communications and construction, hurricane-related losses continue to rise.
But the 2020 season has not come under the best of circumstances. This extremely active season arrived in a slowing pandemic, accompanied by civil unrest and atypical wildfire activity that could draw attention and resources from post-storm preparedness and assistance.
And as if it were not & # 39; t enough, it falls in the middle of what is probably the most controversial, chaotic American election year in modern history.
To say that these new variables complicate resilience would be a gross understatement for a year whose (using the phrase technical insurance) "general oddity" would be difficult to exaggerate.
So in an article published today, we examine the current state of hurricane resilience ̵
Demographics more than climate change
Nine of the 10 most expensive hurricanes in US history have occurred since 2004 and 2017, 2018, one and 2019 were the largest back-to-back-to-back back insured the property loss years in US history. Many would instinctively chalk up such figures for climate change. But a close look at the data suggests that climate change is not the predominant cause of losses.
USA. Census Bureau data show that the number of homes in the United States has increased most dramatically since 1940 in areas most exposed to weather-related damage. They also show that new housing is larger and more expensive than in recent decades.
Larger homes full of more valuables, more cars and infrastructure in disaster-prone areas – these, more than climate trends, seem to be the dominant factors driving
Not more, but wetter
Hurricanes perhaps are not more frequent or significantly more intense due to climate change, but they appear to be wetter. Inland floods have caused more deaths in the United States over the past 30 years than any other hurricane-related threat.
In the early 2020 season, tropical storm Cristobal landed along southeastern Louisiana, triggering a flood as far inland as northwestern Wisconsin. .
"As the atmosphere continues to warm, storms can hold more moisture and provide more rain," said Triple-I researcher and Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Dr. Philip Klotzbach. This trend may be exacerbated if, as some experts expect, storms begin to travel more slowly and increase the moisture they would pick up from the ocean and fall over land.
That's why experts we talk to say, 'Get flood insurance.' as well as the development of preparation and mitigation.  Better data and improved modeling have made private insurance companies comfortable writing coverage, such as flood insurance, which was previously considered "immobile" and enabled the creation of entirely new types of insurance products.
But challenges remain. Experts do not agree on which models are the best, and these models may make it difficult for regulators to determine whether the prices submitted based on them are unfairly discriminatory.
Hurricane preparations and damage mitigation have benefited from improved communication and public planning.
"Many people are still not evacuating as they should," said Todd Blachier of Church Mutua l Insurance, "but states such as Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi have become much better at closing inbound roads and creating one-way exits to facilitate evacuation.
He says that officials act much faster and communicate more efficiently, thanks in large part to improved information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other resources.
One area where improvements can increase resilience is building codes and standards. A recent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) study quantified the losses avoided due to buildings being built according to modern, hazardous codes and standards. In California and Florida – two of the most catastrophic states – FEMA found that adopting and enforcing modern codes over the past 20 years led to long-term future savings of $ 1 billion per year for these two states combined.