A new year has dawned and as celebrations from the holidays die down, insurers turn a wary eye toward a potentially chaotic future. 2011 has gained infamy as one of the worst years in recent history in terms of natural disasters. While some insurance organizations claim the total cost of worldwide catastrophes hovers in the range of $100 billion, Munich Re, a global reinsurance and risk solutions firm, asserts that the real total of global disasters is at $310 billion. Risk modelers have yet to release their predictions regarding the events of 2012, but many in the insurance industry have little hope that this year will be better than the last.
Two major events could have a drastic impact on global weather. One is La Nina, an atmospheric event that has caused havoc in the past. The phenomenon is marked by cooling waters in the Pacific Ocean, which could significantly strengthen the Atlantic hurricane season as well as bring heavy rains to areas that have traditionally low rainfall. The other potential event is El Nino, which is the warming of waters in the Pacific region. This event could change wind patterns, which may cause widespread droughts in Australia, but make Atlantic hurricanes significantly weaker.
According to the U.S. National Weather Service, La Nina emerged in the winter last year, but its effects were not as powerful as had been anticipated. The event is likely to persist throughout much of 2012, however, which could trigger some major hurricanes throughout the Atlantic region.