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Climate change is about to hit your wallet, here's why

Digital writers

Tuesday, January 23, 2018, 17:39 - According to a new report released by actuarial organizations in Canada and the United States, extreme weather occurred at record high amounts in spring 2017 for both countries as compared to a 30-year historical average. 

Created by the American Academy of Actuaries, the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, the Casualty Actuarial Society and the Society of Actuaries, the Actuaries Climate Index gathers sets of values expressed in standard deviations from historical average calculated for components of extreme weather between 1961 and 1990. The data covers frequency of changes in six components: extreme high temperatures, of extreme low temperatures, heavy rainfall, drought, high winds, and changing sea levels. 

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Separated into 12 sub-regions, and based on data sets collected by environment and climate agencies across North America, these components are meant to best represent the effect of climate change on people and the economy.

The five-year moving average calculated for climate extremes as of spring 2017 matches the value found for winter 2016-2017, which was record breaking. 

"Sea level, one of the six components of the index, has been highest in recent years in the Southeast Atlantic region (from Virginia to Louisiana) and in the Southern Plains coastal region (Texas)," reads a press release by the Canadian Institute of Acturaries (CIA). "Sea levels in the Central East Atlantic (from Maryland to Maine) and Northeast Atlantic (Canadian maritime) regions also contributed to the increased significance of the component."

According to the ACI, actuaries are weighing in on climate change because it impacts the process of predicting and mitigating financial risk for both insurance consumers and insurance companies.

“This hurricane season has brought renewed attention to the question of whether extreme weather is increasing, and for a broad swath of North America, the Actuaries Climate Index data were trending in that direction to February 2017,” said Caterina Lindman, chair of the Climate Change Committee, in a press release for the winter 2017 index.

The Weather Network meteorologist and storm chaser Jaclyn Whittal has witnessed first-hand some of the most devastating examples of extreme weather in North America. 

Watch below: Jaclyn Whittal can barely stand, still feeling the brunt of Hurricane Harvey

A seven-year storm chasing career behind her, Whittal was in Houston, TX, in August 2016 as Hurricane Harvey battered the southern portion of the state. The eye of Hurricane Harvey made landfall over Texas as a major Category 4 hurricane, first on San Jose Island and then near Rockport and Fulton. The storm produced 240 km/h sustained winds, 12-foot storm surge, and local rainfall totals of over 1 metre in less than 48 hours. At least 82 people died, and clean up for the storm is estimated to eventually total $125 billion. 

Whittal said witnessing the widespread flood damage Harvey produced in Texas was one of the most shocking moments of her career. The storm damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and business. 

"I've met families in Texas who said their suburban homes flood every time there's a severe thunderstorm," she said. "Their insurance premiums become so high they can barely afford to insure them anymore."

The National Weather Service described Harvey as "unprecedented" and "beyond anything experienced." The storm produced record breaking rainfall: 1.47 metres fell in Ceder Bayour, TX, a continental US record. 

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