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North America has seen the world’s sharpest increase in the number of natural catastrophes during the past 32 years, a trend that in some respects is linked to manmade global warming, according to a report released Wednesday from the global reinsurance giant Munich Re. 2012 has, so far, had the most extreme weather on record in the lower 48 states, according to the Climate Extremes Index.
The new and most controversial finding in the report is that the upward trend in weather-related disaster losses is being driven in part by manmade global warming, since previous studies have shown that socioeconomic factors, such as population growth and urban sprawl, are behind this trend. At the same time, however, studies have increasingly found that global warming is already making certain types of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and precipitation extremes, more likely to occur and more severe.
The study, which Munich Re described as being aimed partly at galvanizing action on global warming, discusses ties between global warming and thunderstorm-related losses, which peaked in 2011. Thanks to large-scale heat waves and a massive drought, 2012 has been the most extreme weather year on record in the lower 48 states, as measured by the National Climatic Data Center’s Climate Extremes.
Peter Hoppe, who heads up Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Group, called the thunderstorm loss findings and other evidence in the report “an initial climate change footprint in our U.S.
Studies of how global warming might affect severe thunderstorms and the tornadoes they can spawn have shown that a warmer world might lead to more thunderstorm activity, but fewer tornadoes, as the atmosphere becomes more unstable while wind shear, a crucial ingredient in tornado formation, declines.
For example, a forthcoming study coauthored by Pielke shows no upward trend of tornado losses in the U.S. The executive summary of the Munich Re report does state that socioeconomic factors will continue to be the main driver of disaster loss trends, even with the effects of global warming. Climate change is a particularly acute challenge to insurance companies, which currently do not take climate change-related hazard trends into account when determining the cost of premiums. Munich Re, along with other insurers, has long pushed for the insurance industry to take an active role in encouraging society to take action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global warming. Why Is the USDA Silencing Its Own Scientists’ Warnings About the Dangerous Effects of Pesticides?
On board the Costa Concordia, thousands of passengers were dining, drinking, attending a magic show, perhaps trying their luck in the casino. It was Friday night on the luxury cruise liner, sailing in the Mediterranean off the Italian coast with about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members - a night of entertainment and relaxation.

Those on board then heard an ominous scraping sound, and the 951-foot vessel gave a shudder. The ship was carrying about 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members when it ran aground Friday night. Now, rescue efforts continue as the ship's operator and prosecutors try to figure out exactly what happen and who is to blame. After a brief suspension, rescue efforts resumed Monday on the partially sunken cruise liner Costa Concordia, officials said. The ship struck rocks Friday night and rolled onto its side, leaving at least six people dead.
The search was suspended earlier Monday because the vessel began to move, said Sergio Ortelli, mayor of the nearby island of Giglio. Coast Guard spokesman Filippo Marino said efforts had resumed, adding that rescuers will focus on retrieving the body of a man, presumably a passenger, discovered earlier in the day.
By all accounts, things went bad the moment the ship struck rocks Friday night and rolled onto its side.
Why was the ship  so close in to shore in an area where local sailors say the sea bed is pockmarked with rocks?
Costa Cruises chairman and chief executive Pier Luigi Foschi placed blame for the wreck squarely on the captain, however, saying Schettino had deviated from frequently traveled routes.
Captain Francesco Schettino is under arrest and may face charges including manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning a ship when passengers were still on board, Italian prosecutor Francesco Verusio said. Click to watch video Schettino denies the assertion that he had steered the ship too far inland. Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has warned that if oil leaks from the stricken cruise liner  it could cause an environmental disaster, threatening marine life including birds, whales and sharks.
The vessel - containing hundreds of tons of fuel oil - is now partially submerged off the Italian island of Giglio, which lies inside the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals. The sanctuary was set up 10 years ago in an agreement between France, Italy and Monaco, with about half of it existing in international waters.
Costa chairman and chief executive Foschi confirmed that the vessel is carrying 2,300 tons of oil, split between heavy fuel oil and gas oil.

Greenpeace is concerned that other toxic substance that may be on board - such as lubricants and paints - could spill into the sea and get into the food chain.
The study, which has not undergone scientific peer review, examined natural disaster losses between 1980 and 2011, finding that weather-related loss events in North America “nearly quintupled” during the period, compared to just an increase factor of two in Europe, for example. The largest loss event was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which was the costliest natural disaster ever recorded in North America, and killed 1,322 people, the report said. That year there was $26 billion in insured property losses from thunderstorm-related hazards, such as hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Munich Re’s press release notes that the loss potential of drought and heat “are often underestimated” since they affect society more gradually than storms do. Researchers who have examined severe thunderstorm characteristics have not found significant global warming-related trends to date, in part because of problems in historical data sets. A recent report from Ceres, a nonprofit group that advocates for sustainable business practices, called attention to the threat that extreme weather events pose to the sustainability of the insurance industry, warning that some may face existential risks due to outsized exposure to climate change-related risks. CDC INTENSIFIES CHILDHOOD VACCINE SCHEDULE TO INCLUDE 74 INJECTIONS BEFORE AGE 17Stephen Verchinski on PRITZKER PRIZE WINNER ALEJANDRO ARAVENA RELEASES FREE HOUSING DESIGNS TO FIGHT HOMELESSNESSkate kugelman on WEAPONS OF MASS VACCINATION? About 16 people remained unaccounted for as of Monday following the collision off the Italian coast on Friday evening.
He said the company was limited in its ability to investigate the incident because they did not have the data recorder. Pelagos is a haven for many marine species including the fin whale, sperm whale, bottlenose dolphin, tuna, swordfish and sharks, as well as supporting sea bird populations. The study concludes that both urban sprawl and climate change are drivers of the increased thunderstorm costs. The head of the company that owns the ship said Monday he has not given up hope of finding survivors. Thus it is quite probable that changing climate conditions are the drivers,” Munich Re stated in a press release.

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