Both the human toll and monetary impact of global natural catastrophes and man-made disasters dropped significantly in 2009 compared to 2008. But the overall figures mask aÃ‚ tale of two halves. Initial estimates from Swiss Re indicate that some 12,000 people worldwide were killed by catastrophes in 2009, compared to 240,000 in 2008. At $52 billion, the total cost to society of the catastrophes was also about one-fifth of the $267 billion total cost the previous year. Insurers paid out an estimated $24 billion in property losses from these events, compared to total insured losses of over $50 billion in 2008. Natural catastrophes cost insurers roughly $21 billion, while man-made catastrophes triggered additional claims of $3 billion. Swiss Re attributed the below average insured losses to the calm U.S. hurricane season. Contrary to the U.S., Europe suffered above average insured losses in 2009. In a press release Swiss Re cautioned that while cat losses have trended upward in the past 20 years, there is high volatility from year to year. The figures also indicate the volatility of cat losses within any given year. For example, cat losses in the first seven months of 2009 were nearly double the average of the last 20 years. Had that trend continued in the second half it could have been a different story. Thomas Hess, chief economist of Swiss Re, sums it up: Ã¢â‚¬Å“We were lucky, but that may not be the case next year.Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on global catastrophes.