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March-April 2010

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Trend Analysis: Are Storms Getting Worse?

There has been considerable national concern over climate change resulting from global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and several climate modelers predict that, going forward, climate change in the United States will include more intense Atlantic hurricanes, more heavy rains and floods, and increases in other forms of severe weather. In recent years several studies have focused on the time changes in extreme storms and their losses in the United States. Several of these impact studies used data on catastrophes, which are events causing losses of $25 million or more, based on data from the property insurance industry. That industry has collected catastrophe loss data since 1949, and insurance experts have systematically adjusted the data to changing conditions (inflation, insurance coverage, etc.) in order to make past loss amounts comparable to today's conditions.

STANLEY A. CHAGNON is Senior Scientist at the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois and also Professor of Georgraphy. He has authored 25 books including one about the great 1988 drought, the famed flood of 1993, the 1997–1998 El Niño weather, and urban effects on weather and climate.

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