News Release 

Hurricane damage in the United States

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study explores hurricane damage in the United States from 1900 to 2018. In the United States, hurricanes are among the most expensive natural disasters, but comparing the damage from recent and historical storms is challenging because of changing factors, such as the value of vulnerable property over time. Aslak Grinsted and colleagues developed a method to compare the impact of hurricanes across centuries and report that storms have become more damaging over time. The authors' method accounts for, or normalizes, changes in exposed wealth. Instead of framing storms in terms of economic damage, the method frames losses in terms of a more easily quantified factor: land area. Using an insurance industry database, the authors calculated the amount of land totally destroyed by more than 240 storms from 1900 to 2018. Using the normalization method, the authors found that the frequency of more damaging storms is increasing faster than that of moderately damaging storms. According to the authors, the approach accounts for differences in wealth, population, and spatial differences, and lends support for the impact of climate change on increasing storm intensity, but does not address changes in vulnerability.

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Article #19-12277: "Normalized US hurricane damage estimates using area of total destruction, 1900?2018," by Aslak Grinsted, Peter Ditlevsen, and Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen.

MEDIA CONTACT: Aslak Grinsted, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, DENMARK; email: aslak@nbi.ku.dk

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