In an intensifying climate, Cyclone Dovi took the top spot for the most damaging national weather event over a six-month period, according to new data from insurer IAG.
The former tropical cyclone was responsible for more than 40% of the 8,293 weather-related complaints received by the company’s three brands, between September and February. The nearly 8,300 claims filed represent a 32% increase from the same six-month period a year earlier.
The data comes shortly after the government released its National Adaptation Plan, a list of actions it will take to prepare the country for the storms, droughts, fires and sea level rise that climate change will bring. .
Climate Change Minister James Shaw said the effects were already here: “Just in the last few months we have seen massive flooding, like the ones in Tairawhiti; storms such as those recently experienced in Westport; the fires in the Waituna Wetlands in Southland; and droughts across the country.
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IAG NZ chief executive Amanda Whiting agreed that the warming is already having an impact on Aotearoa.
“We see firsthand the impact of climate change through changing weather patterns on our communities,” she added. “Our claims data clearly shows that severe weather events are becoming more frequent and more damaging to people’s homes and property. We predict that these events will only increase as our climate warms.
During the spring-summer season, 10 major storms hit the country. Here are the five craziest weather events:
1. Cyclone Dovi. From February 11 to 13, 2022.
Total number of complaints: 3524
Region with the most complaints: Waikato
What happened: After hitting New Caledonia and Vanuatu as a tropical cyclone, Dovi was downgraded before arriving on New Zealand shores in mid-February. Despite this, he still did a lot of damage, including cutting off the electricity to tens of thousands of homes. Wind gusts of over 150 kilometers per hour have been recorded in Auckland. Wellington recorded its wettest February day ever, with torrential rain causing flooding and slides. A person was seriously injured in Waikato after a tree fell on a vehicle.
2. Spring “thermal winds”. September 9 and 10, 2021.
Total number of complaints: 1254
Region with the most complaints: Canterbury
What happened: One spring evening, a particularly powerful weather front swept across the country, producing gusts of 146 km/h at the top of Wellington’s Remutaka Hills, 135 km/h in Dunedin and 126 km/h in Christchurch. The storm formed when a large high pressure system located over the North Island encountered a low pressure system to the south. The difference in pressure between the two whipped up the powerful winds, which knocked out power to nearly 7,000 homes, damaged buildings and toppled trees. This type of weather is most likely to occur in the spring, when Antarctica is coldest, creating “thermal winds”.
3. Torrential rain before Christmas. From December 13 to 16, 2021.
Total number of complaints: 856
Region with the most complaints: Manawatu-Whanganui
What happened: Torrential rains hit the lower part of the North Island from Wellington to Feilding. On the Kāpiti coast, up to 60 millimeters of rain fell. There was also an intense gust of 20mm in 20 minutes recorded in the Wellington area causing a landslide which damaged houses. Palmerston North recorded over 45mm of rain. Flooding at some properties in Manawatū was worsened when “disaster tourists” traveled to view the damage.
Summer thunderstorms. From February 2 to 10, 2022.
Total number of complaints: 623
Region with the most complaints: Auckland
What happened: In early February, a low pressure system arrived on the west coast of the South Island for the first time, dumping significant amounts of rain. The storm pulled in warm, humid air from the tropics, which made the downpours worse. A state of emergency was declared in Buller and over 300mm of rain was recorded at a weather station. State Highway 6 was closed due to surface flooding and slips. After drenching the south, the system slowly moved up the country, dominating the country’s weather for an entire week. The North Island – in particular Taranaki – experienced a hot, wet and humid spell ahead of the Waitangi long weekend. There was a brief clear spell, before the heavy rains returned.
Spring winds, take two. From September 12 to 14, 2021.
Total number of complaints: 506
Region with the most complaints: Canterbury
What happened: Just days after a bout of strong winds, a second spring blast hit the country. The fires added to the problems: lightning was believed to have been responsible for wildfires in Canterbury and Otago, with winds fanning the flames. The gusts also lifted roofs off houses in Invercargill and Dunedin. Power lines were knocked down and fallen trees damaged property.
Data is based on all weather claims received by IAG AMI, State and NZI Insurance brands.
Longer-term data from IAG also shows an upward trend in the number of claims. In the five years from 2017 to 2021, the insurer received double the number of weather claims compared to the previous period, from 2012 to 2016. Whiting said each claim represents “a family, individual or business in need to rebuild after the heartbreaking devastation of a storm”.
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