Insurance Handbook

Natural Catastrophes: United States

Aon defines a catastrophe as a natural event that causes $25 million or more in insured property losses, or 10 deaths; or 50 people injured; or 2,000 filed claims or homes and structures damaged. Aon’s natural catastrophe estimates include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and include losses sustained by private insurers and government-sponsored programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program. They are subject to change as loss estimates are further developed. Natural catastrophe losses in the United States rose to an historic high in 2017 of $133 billion in 2020 dollars, the year of Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma and costly California wildfires. Natural catastrophe losses fell in 2018 and 2019, but rose to $75.1 billion in 2020, up 90 percent from $39.6 billion in 2019.

Natural Catastrophes By Quarter, 2020 (1)

(2020 $ millions)

Quarter Estimated insured losses
1 $7,340
2 19,070
3 41,520
4 7,180
Full year $75,110

(1) Natural disasters that cause at least $25 million in insured losses; or 10 deaths; or 50 people injured; or 2,000 filed claims or homes and structures damaged. Includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Includes losses sustained by private insurers and government-sponsored programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program. Subject to change as loss estimates are further developed. As of February 13, 2021.

Source: Aon.

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Natural Catastrophe Losses In The United States By Peril, 2020

($ millions)

Event Number of
events (1)
Fatalities Economic losses (2) Insured losses (3)
Severe convective storm 51 106 $49,323 $35,000
Tropical cyclone 12 73 40,059 21,600
Wildfire, drought, heatwave 19 43 22,959 13,900
Flooding 4 8 5,292 2,200
Winter storm 4 6 1634.1 930
Earthquake 4 0 152 58
Total 94 ~250 $119,000 $74,000

(1) Natural disasters that cause at least $25 million in insured losses; or 10 deaths; or 50 people injured; or 2,000 filed claims or homes and structures damaged. Includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
(2) Includes any direct physical damage or direct net loss business interruption costs.
(3) Includes losses sustained by private insurers and government-sponsored programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program. Subject to change as loss estimates are further developed. As of February 23, 2021.

~ =Approximately.

Source: Aon.

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Estimated Insured Property Losses, U.S. Natural Catastrophes, 2011-2020 (1)

($ billions)

Year In dollars
when occurred
In 2020
dollars (2)
2011 $48.4 $56.3
2012 63.5 72.3
2013 24.1 27.2
2014 23.2 25.6
2015 22.9 25.3
2016 31.6 34.5
2017 130.9 133.1
2018 60.4 62.7
2019 38.7 39.6
2020 74.4 74.4

(1) Natural disasters that cause at least $25 million in insured losses; or 10 deaths; or 50 people injured; or 2,000 filed claims or homes and structures damaged. Includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Includes losses sustained by private insurers and government-sponsored programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program. Subject to change as loss estimates are further developed. As of February 23, 2021. Adjusted for inflation by Aon using the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

Source: Aon.

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The chart below shows insured losses for the top 10 U.S. natural catastrophes. According to Aon, Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural catastrophe, causing $65 billion in damage when it occurred in 2005, including losses from the NFIP. Katrina would cost $85.6 billion in 2020 dollars. Seven additional hurricanes made the top 10 list, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which caused $30 billion when it occurred and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017, each of which also caused about $30 billion in losses. Hurricanes Andrew, Ike and Wilma are also included in the top 10.

Top 10 Costliest Natural Catastrophes, United States (1)

($ millions)

      Estimated insured property loss
Rank Year Peril Dollars when
occurred
In 2020
dollars (2)
1 2005 Hurricane Katrina $65,000 $86,570
2 2012 Hurricane Sandy 30,000 33,930
3 2017 Hurricane Harvey 30,000 31,960
4 2017 Hurricane Irma 30,050 31,840
5 2017 Hurricane Maria 29,500 31,300
6 1992 Hurricane Andrew 16,000 29,700
7 1994 Northridge earthquake 15,300 27,370
8 2008 Hurricane Ike 18,200 21,760
9 2012 Drought loss 14,400 16,610
10 2005 Hurricane Wilma 10,666 14,010

(1) Natural disasters that cause at least $25 million in insured losses; or 10 deaths; or 50 people injured; or 2,000 filed claims or homes and structures damaged. Includes Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Includes losses sustained by private insurers and government-sponsored programs such as the National Flood Insurance Program. Subject to change as loss estimates are further developed. As of February 23, 2021.
(2) Adjusted for inflation by Aon using the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

Source: Aon.

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