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Aon plc has published its Global Catastrophe Recap: First Half (1H) of 2023, revealing a preliminary estimate of $194 billion in economic losses stemming from global natural disasters.

Notably, this is above the 1H average of $128 billion for the 21st century, the fifth highest on record and the highest since 2011.

The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria during the first quarter of 2023 were responsible for nearly half of the total economic losses, estimated at $91 billion. The event also became the deadliest global disaster since 2010 and the costliest in both countries' modern histories. As a result, economic losses in the EMEA region were unprecedented at $111 billion, far exceeding the previous 1H record of $71 billion set in 1990.

While the earthquake event was the costliest from an insurance perspective, severe convective storm (SCS) activity in the United States dominated global losses during this period. In the first half of 2023, US SCS activity was responsible for at least 13 individual billion-dollar events and $35 billion in total preliminary insured losses, setting a new record for the first half of a year.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Two back-to-back, billion-dollar disasters impacted the North Island of New Zealand within a three-week period in the first quarter of 2023: remnants of Cyclone Gabriele and severe flooding in Auckland. These events are ranked as the fifth and sixth costliest events for insured losses in New Zealand overall, only surpassed by the earthquakes of 2010, 2011 and 2016.
  • Prolonged wildfire activity across multiple Canadian provinces resulted in more than 10 million hectares of land being burned, and thick smoke plumes generated hazardous air conditions with potentially significant health impacts for tens of millions of people across North America. While some populated areas were affected with an estimate of hundreds of millions in economic losses – notably on the outskirts of Halifax in Nova Scotia by the Tantallon wildfire – the vast majority of the fires did not cause significant material damage to property.
  • This year's economic losses of $194 billion already constitute 60 percent of the average annual global total. Global insured losses from natural disaster events in 1H 2023 were $53 billion, preliminarily 46 percent above the 21st-century average. Disaster costs continued to be affected by inflationary pressure, still persistent in many parts of the world, as well as other societal factors including demographics and wealth distribution that remain a major driver of financial loss.
  • Notable heatwaves occurred worldwide, with the global sea surface temperature extremely high: recorded temperatures this year were higher than in any previous year since 1981. In the first half of the year, some areas experienced water temperatures of up to 5˚Celsius, or 9˚ Fahrenheit, higher than usual. This trend is continuing into the second half of the year.

Read the report (PDF).

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