The risk of tropical cyclones in Brazil

Ten years after the first tropical cyclone ever recorded in the South Atlantic, a new Swiss Re study investigates the possibility and potential impact of another event like it.

Floods, drought and landslides are widely known to be recurring natural hazards across Brazil. But until recently, only few people would have imagined a tropical cyclone developing off the Brazilian coast, since the South Atlantic was widely assumed to be an ocean basin in which such events could not occur.

This view changed fundamentally when tropical cyclone Catarina struck Brazil in March 2004. In addition to lives lost in the southern states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, communities in these areas suffered considerable damage to property, land and infrastructure. In total, Catarina caused close to USD 500 million in economic losses.

What if?

The risk of tropical cyclones in Brazil (PDF, 529 KB), a new study by Swiss Re and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) explores the main atmospheric conditions that lead to the development of tropical cyclones in the South Atlantic. It asks: what would happen if a storm like Catarina hit Brazil today, after a decade of rapid economic growth which would most certainly put more people and property in harm's way?

According to the report's findings, the financial impact of a tropical cyclone striking the southern parts of Brazil, including the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo, could lead to economic losses of up to USD 20 billion. Although rapid economic growth has led to an increase in commercial and industrial insurance coverage, a large part of the damage would be uninsured. Insurance claims could nevertheless reach around USD 1 billion, an unprecedented amount for natural catastrophes in Brazil.

The adaptation equation

As Brazil continues its rapid development path and more people and assets concentrate along its coast, the question of how to manage natural disaster risk will gain even more importance. Building codes, sea defences, and emergency planning, as well risk transfer and insurance, are just some of the adaptation measures communities can take to prepare for future natural disasters. Since Catarina made landfall in 2004, we know the next big event could be a tropical cyclone.

Published 12 June 2014

Mind the risk: cities under threat...

The world's sprawling cities are centres of economic activity and growth. But when a natural disaster hits a densely populated area, the effects can be catastrophic. A Swiss Re study looks at the human...

Read the whole story

Partnering to reduce flood risk...

Stronger collaboration between the public sector and the insurance industry could add vital momentum to the Brazilian government's USD 11 billion plan to finance public works aimed at avoiding and mitigating...

Read the whole story

Write a comment

Comment Policy
(All fields marked with * are mandatory)

In our ongoing efforts to improve the quality and relevance of our publications, we would like to know more about you.


Interested in subscribing to our content? Visit our subscription page

Remember me

We use cookies to gather information that will help us provide the best possible service. By using this site, you are accepting our cookie policy.

In our ongoing efforts to improve the quality and relevance of our publications, we would like to know more about you.

* required fields

Interested in subscribing to our content? Visit our subscription page.