Articles | Volume 13, issue 1
Research article
24 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 24 Jan 2013

Tropical cyclone-related socio-economic losses in the western North Pacific region

C. Welker and E. Faust

Abstract. The western North Pacific (WNP) is the area of the world most frequently affected by tropical cyclones (TCs). However, little is known about the socio-economic impacts of TCs in this region, probably because of the limited relevant loss data. Here, loss data from Munich RE's NatCatSERVICE database is used, a high-quality and widely consulted database of natural disasters. In the country-level loss normalisation technique we apply, the original loss data are normalised to present-day exposure levels by using the respective country's nominal gross domestic product at purchasing power parity as a proxy for wealth. The main focus of our study is on the question of whether the decadal-scale TC variability observed in the Northwest Pacific region in recent decades can be shown to manifest itself economically in an associated variability in losses. It is shown that since 1980 the frequency of TC-related loss events in the WNP exhibited, apart from seasonal and interannual variations, interdecadal variability with a period of about 22 yr – driven primarily by corresponding variations of Northwest Pacific TCs. Compared to the long-term mean, the number of loss events was found to be higher (lower) by 14% (9%) in the positive (negative) phase of the decadal-scale WNP TC frequency variability. This was identified for the period 1980–2008 by applying a wavelet analysis technique. It was also possible to demonstrate the same low-frequency variability in normalised direct economic losses from TCs in the WNP region. The identification of possible physical mechanisms responsible for the observed decadal-scale Northwest Pacific TC variability will be the subject of future research, even if suggestions have already been made in earlier studies.