, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 513-535

Vulnerability of the Netherlands and Northwest Europe to Storm Damage under Climate Change

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Abstract

Storms occasionally bring havoc to Northwest Europe. At present, a single storm may cause damage of up to 7 billion U.S.$, of which a substantial part is insured. One scenario of climate change indicates that storm intensity in Northwest Europe could increase by 1–9% because of the doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. A geographic-explicit, statistical model, based on recent storms and storm damage data for the Netherlands, shows that an increase of 2% in wind intensity by the year 2015 could lead to a 50% increase in storm damage to houses and businesses. Only 20% of the increase is due to population and economic growth. A 6% increase could even triple the damage. A simpler model – based on national average data and combined with a stochastic storm generator – shows that the average annual damage could increase by 80% with a 2% increase in wind intensity. A 6% wind intensity increase could lead to an average annual damage increase of 500%. The damage in Northwest Europe is about a factor 6 higher than the damage in the Netherlands. Little potential seems to exist for reducing the vulnerability to storms in the Netherlands. More attention should be given to planning at the government level for disaster relief and to the development of coping strategies.