According to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Status of the Global Climate report, the average global temperature in 2015 was 1.37 degrees above the average established between 1961 and 1990. This temperature increase made it the hottest year on record, beating out 2014. The report also found that 2015 was the second warmest year on record for the United States. WMO, NASA, and NOAA all projected that the historically high global temperatures are set to continue through 2016. January and February already reached record setting temperatures. Many experts feel El Nino is one of the contributing factors to the record high temperatures. However, the majority of the record setting heat is due to global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. These continuous years of record setting heat are alarming because of the extreme weather conditions they cause. Natural disasters and extreme weather in 2015 included:
- Major heat waves and extreme drought
- Heavy rains and flooding
- Above average tropical storm activity
The warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and increases the chance of intense rainfall. December of 2015 was the warmest and wettest December ever recorded in the US. There were unusual winter floods in areas East of the Mississippi river. Also due to the heat, there were a record number of wildfires in 2015. This record setting heat has continued into the new year. Only time will tell how long these weather conditions will persist. David Kodama, assistant vice president of research & policy analysis for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, mentioned "there are many mitigation efforts we can take, to manage our risk".
The Pacific Northwest and Alaska are beautiful and scenic. But because these regions are heavily forested, they are prone to wildfires during heat waves. According to the WMO report, Alaska saw around 400 fires in May and 700 fires in July. Washington state also suffered its largest wildfire ever in 2015. The fire burned over 300,000 acres of land. Most homeowners insurance policies cover damage done to a home due to wind, fire and lightning as well as any personal belongings lost in a fire.
Here are some tips to lower your risk of wildfire:
- Clear dry brush
- Have 100-feet of clear area around your home - trees, shrubs, firewood can all raise risk of wildfire
- Have an evacuation plan
- Have fire resistant landscape
- Have a fire extinguisher
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Another natural disaster made worse by hot weather is hurricanes. Hurricanes primarily affect the southeastern US. But hurricanes have made landfall as far north as Boston. And according to an article by Climate Central there has been above average tropical cyclone activity in the Pacific Ocean Basin lately. The two main hazards resulting from hurricanes are wind and flooding.
Wind is covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Although, sometimes homeowners policies will have separate deductibles. One for hurricane specific damage and another for damage caused by mundane high winds. For more information on this topic check out our article about natural disasters. Below, we’ve provided some steps to take to prepare for a hurricane:
- Inspect your roof, make sure there's no way water can seep through
- Cover windows
- Secure your walls
- Hurricane proof your garage- make sure it can withstand impact of hurricane
- Take inventory of all your personal belongings and review your policy
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S. If the record setting heat continues, flooding could reach historic levels as well. The unusually hot weather may cause monsoon rains resulting in flash floods, like what residents of Arizona experience on a regular basis. Unfortunately, floods are not covered by homeowner's insurance. Flood insurance is only available from the National Flood Insurance Program. Here are some tips on how to recover from a flood:
- Document damages
- File any insurance forms needed to prove loss quickly
- To save on repair costs, research contractors before hiring
There is no way to take these climatic changes and apply them directly to premium prices. So take the time and effort to prepare yourself and your home. Check your home policy and make sure that you are getting the right coverage for your needs.