The last 10 years have seen a variety of weather perils cause significant insured losses in the United States. From the wild fires of 2003, hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, to the severe thunderstorm events in 2011, extreme weather has the appearance of being the norm.

The industry has experienced over $200B in combined losses from catastrophic weather events in the US since 2002. While the weather is often seen as a random, chaotic thing, there are relatively predictable patterns (so called “climate states”) in the weather which can be used to inform our expectations of extreme weather events. An oft quoted adage is that “climate is what you expect; weather is what you actually observe.”

A more useful way to think about the relationship between weather and climate is that the climate is the mean state of the atmosphere (either locally or globally) which changes over time, and weather is the variation around that mean. This paper will examine the climate states that drive, to greater or lesser extents, the extreme weather events experienced in the United States, specifically: hurricanes, severe thunderstorm, and wild fire. The aim is not to provide a complete description for extreme weather but a helpful guide to understanding some of the influences on catastrophic weather events.

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