Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A hidden risk of climate change: More property damage from drought-induced soil subsidence in Europe

Swiss Re: Europe is witnessing a dramatic increase in property damage as a result of soil subsidence. Climate change could magnify those risks, a new Swiss Re publication shows. A new loss model developed by Swiss Re and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) suggests that soil subsidence will worsen and spread in Europe, with some areas seeing a more than 50% rise in future losses.

Prolonged dry spells, as recently seen in parts of Europe, can cause the ground to sink by so much that cracks appear in the earth, tearing apart the foundations of houses, bridges, factories and other structures. In the worst case, whole buildings can collapse. Climate change will magnify these risks as factors such as rising average temperatures and more erratic rainfall continue to alter soil conditions.

"As our climate continues to change, the risk of property damage from soil subsidence is not only increasing but also spreading to new regions in Europe," says Matt Weber, Head of Property & Specialty Underwriting at Swiss Re.

European property insurers face major potential losses from droughtinduced soil subsidence, states Swiss Re's latest publication "The hidden risks of climate change: An increase in property damage from drought and soil subsidence in Europe". In France alone, subsidence-related losses have risen by more than 50% in the last two decades, costing affected regions an average of EUR 340 million per year.

...Large parts of Europe will experience more sporadic rainfall and drier soils in the future and these areas will therefore face greater losses from shifting soil, the model shows. In some regions, the soil subsidence loss potential for the period 2021– 2040 is expected to increase by more than 50% compared to today...

From March 2007, a subsiding section of the embankment of the Stubbins to Accrington railway branch line that opened in 1846. Since its closure in 1966 the years of neglect and tree root growth have taken their toll. Today the embankment is near to total collapse. Shot by Paul Anderson, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

No comments: