Indicator Assessment

Direct losses from weather disasters

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-182-en
  Also known as: CSI 042 , CLIM 039
Created 08 Sep 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 25 Aug 2017
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  • About 90 % of all natural disasters in Europe that have occurred since 1980 are directly or indirectly attributable to weather and climate. About 95 % of economic losses caused by catastrophic events have resulted from these weather and climate-related disasters.
  • The average number of annual disastrous weather and climate-related events in Europe increased by about 65 % over 1998-2007 compared with the annual average for the 1980s, while non-weather events (e.g. earthquakes) remained stable. An unknown share of this increase can be attributed to climate change, the rest to changes in the sensitivity of human/societal systems.
  • Overall losses resulting from weather- and climate-related events have increased clearly during the past 25 years. Even though social change and economic development are the main factors responsible for this increase, there is evidence that changing patterns of weather disasters are also drivers. However, it is still not possible to determine the proportion of the increase in damages that might be attributed to anthropogenic climate change.
  • While in the immediate future disaster losses are projected to increase mainly as a result of societal change and economic development, the most severe effects of anthropogenic climate change on economic assets are expected in the second half of the century.

Update planned for November 2012

Natural disasters in Europe during 1980-2007

Note: Most of the casualties were elderly people who died in the 2003 summer heat wave (surmortality).

Data source:

Munich Re, 2008. Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. Personal communication and submission by P. Löw and A. Wirtz.

Natural disasters in Europe 1980-2007

Note: The figure shows the natural disasters in Europe 1980 - 2007

Data source:

Munich Re, 2008. Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. Personal communication and submission by P. Löw and A. Wirtz.

Overall and insured losses from weather disasters in Europe 1980-2007

Note: The figure shows the overall and insured losses from weather disasters in Europe 1980-2007

Data source:

Munich Re, 2008. Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. Personal communication and submission by P. Löw and A. Wirtz

Example of the adjustment of loss distribution as a consequence of changing risk

Note: Models can produce a probable maximum loss (PML) curve, a chart that is a function of the highest amount an insurer is set to lose at a range of return periods (years).

Data source:

Munich Re, 2007. Naturkatastrophen in Europa, unpublished data

Past trends

In Europe, 64 % of all loss events since 1980 are directly attributable to weather and climate events (storms, floods and heat-waves) and 25 % to wild fires, cold spells, landslides and avalanches, which are also linked to weather and climate. 95 % of the overall losses and 78 % of all deaths caused by disastrous events result from such weather and climate-related events (Figure 1). The annual average number of these weather- and climate-related events in Europe increased during the period 1998-2007 by about 65 % compared with the 1980s, while non-climatic events, such as earthquakes, remained stable (Figure 2). An unknown share of this increase can be attributed to climate change, the rest to changes in the sensitivity of human/societal systems.
In Europe, overall losses caused by weather and climate-related events increased during the period 1980-2007 from a decadal average of less than EUR 7.2 billion (1980-1989) to about EUR 13.7 billion (1998-2007). Six of the nine years with the largest overall losses in this period have occurred since 1999 (Figure 3). The insured portion of the losses generally rose, although with great year-to-year variability.
Particularly disastrous extreme events in Europe in recent years include the severe flooding in central Europe in August 2002 and the extended heat wave in 2003. The 2002 flooding in Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary resulted in overall losses of about EUR 16.8 billion and insured losses of about EUR 3.4 billion (Munich Re, 2008). The 2003 heat wave (Schar et al., 2004) resulted in many more deaths in north-western Europe and the Mediterranean over and above the normal numbers (Kovats and Jendritzky, 2006; Robine at al., 2007) and caused significant losses in the agricultural and energy-producing sectors. As an example, the total loss from the 2003 hot summer in France (including the stress on power generation, the transport system, forests and other ecosystems, including fires, reduced wine production and decreased agricultural productivity) has been estimated at 0.1/0.2 % of GDP, equivalent to EUR 15-30 billion. The 2003 summer was also estimated to have increased building subsidence claims in the United Kingdom by 20 %, with estimated impacts of GBP 30 to GBP 120 million and damage to transport infrastructure (rail buckling and road subsidence) of GBP 40 million (Watkiss et al., 2006).


Extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and heavy precipitation are projected to increase in frequency and intensity in Europe, and the number of people at risk is also projected to grow (IPCC, 2007a). However, the associated time scale and hazard over the next 20 years remains uncertain. The most severe effects of anthropogenic climate change are expected in the second half of the century.
Predicting the future effects of extreme events also remains difficult because of increasing exposure caused by changes in economic development, which increases the value and density of human and physical capital. Disaster losses are expected to rise more rapidly than average economic growth, stressing the importance of risk reduction (Bouwer et al., 2007).
Nonetheless, Swiss Re has estimated that in Europe the costs of a 100-year  storm event could double by the 2080s with climate change (to EUR 40 billion compared with EUR 20 billion today), while average storm losses are estimated to increase by 16-68 % over the same period. The Association of British Insurers (ABI, 2005, 2007) reports an estimated increase in worldwide annual losses from hurricanes, typhoons and windstorms by two-thirds by the 2080s, to EUR 18 billion; in addition, they indicate that subsidence costs in the United Kingdom could increase by 50 % on average clay-soil areas over the next 50 years due to climate change, and that by the 2040s, more than half of all European summers are projected to be warmer than that of 2003 which resulted in huge increases in hospital admissions and premature deaths. Finally, they report that by 2050 around a quarter of working hours will be hotter than 'comfort levels' in London.
The possible future increases in damage will enhance the vulnerability of the insurance sector (see Figure 4) and have important implications for the role of financial services under climate change (IPCC, 2007b). In high-risk areas people will experience increasing difficulty or costs in getting adequate insurance. This is likely to lead to greater levels of uninsured assets, particularly to socially-deprived groups, hence exacerbating inequalities. Thus governments may need to consider new ways of ensuring that especially poorer and more vulnerable people will still be able to have insurance and/or may be compensated for possibly increasing losses in future (e.g. through public-private insurance schemes such as those introduced in Belgium and proposed in the Netherlands (Bouwer et al., 2007)). Nevertheless, the noticeable differences in the climate predictions across Europe show that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and suggest, more specifically, that European countries might need to implement different insurance schemes to secure sustainable and flexible loss-compensation systems.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

  • Natural disasters in Europe 1980-2007
  • Overall and insured losses from weather disasters in Europe 1980-2007



Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified



Methodology for indicator calculation

Methodology for gap filling

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 042
  • CLIM 039
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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