In June 2021, numerous thunderstorms moved across Austria and severe hailstorms affected the northern and eastern regions of the country. Very large and giant hailstones, the size of tennis balls, were reported. Dozens of cars were damaged, telephone poles and trees were knocked down and heavy rain caused flooding.
On 17 July 2021, damaging floods swept through areas along the Salzach River and its tributaries in the state of Salzburg:
- The town of Hallein was particularly strongly hit with muddy water flowing through the town’s streets.
- The Almbach river, which meets the Salzach River at Hallein, rose from around 2 metres to 3.77 metres in a few hours.
- Areas further west were also affected, with flash flooding impacting the town of Kufstein in the province of Tyrol.1
One person died in the Austrian floods.2
The agriculture industry was severely impacted by the June hailstorms. A total loss of agricultural crops in the provinces of Upper Austria and Lower Austria added up to about EUR 28 million.3
Impact on insurers
The June hailstorms were the most expensive event for Austrian insurers in the last 20 years:
- Wiener Städtische Versicherung (Vienna Insurance Group) reported more than 48,000 claims and a total loss of almost EUR 200 million.4
- Oberösterreichische Versicherung (Upper Austrian Insurance) reported about 16,500 claims with more than EUR 160 million in insurance benefits for storm damage. This amount was three times more costly than the previous largest hailstorm event, “Wolfgang” in 2009, which caused about EUR 50 million in losses.5
- Agricultural insurer Österreichische Hagelversicherung reported that the severe hailstorms in Austria caused more than EUR 150 million in damages to agricultural crops.6
Outlook for the future
The effects of climate change are manifold in Austria:7
- Average temperatures will continue to rise until the middle of this century. In the alpine region, potential consequences include increased intensity and frequency of precipitation and hail; more periods of drought; reduction of soil water content; and more floods, mudslides, glacier retreat and pest invasions. Additionally, the rise of the permafrost line leads to an increased danger of landslides in alpine regions.
- Hotter, drier summers are expected, with twice as many days above 30°C.
- Winters are likely to become less cold and snowy on average. Fewer days with snow cover is expected for several winter sports resort areas.
Although climate change impacts most industries, it is particularly damaging to the following Austrian sectors:
- Agriculture is one of the industries most affected by climate change. Increased drought and climate variability reduces crop yield and quality, so normal crop yields will continue to drop. Additionally, crop-damaging insect pests will develop more rapidly, with heat-loving species spreading to the north.
- Similar problems are also evident in forestry. Rising temperatures are doing the most harm to the spruce, the most common tree species in Austria, which is also under heavy pressure from increased drought stress and pest infestation. In many places, the protective function of the mountain forest is being lost. Summer forest fires could become a threat in Austria, similar to what is already happening in the Mediterranean region.
- Tourism will also be impacted. Alpine glaciers have lost about 50% of their ice in the last 100 years due to temperature increases and changes in precipitation, and this trend is expected to continue. The visible retreat of the glaciers in the Alps means a loss of natural water reservoirs and fewer tourists who are drawn to the natural beauty of the area. Mild winters without sufficient natural snow could negatively impact winter tourism.
In addition to economic and environmental damages, climate change in Austria also presents a danger to human health from heat stress in summer (including warmer nights) and from the changed spread of pathogens or their vectors.
For questions or more information on country-specific climate change and risk management, contact the author listed here or your usual Milliman consultant.
1 Floodlist (18 July 2021). Austria and Germany – More Deadly Floods After Heavy Rain. Retrieved 11 March 2022 from https://floodlist.com/europe/austria-germany-bavaria-floods-july-2021.
2 BR24 NEWS (18 July 2021). Floods in Austria are shifting to Tyrol. Retrieved 11 March 2022 from https://www.br.de/nachrichten/meldung/hochwasser-in-oesterreich-verlagert-sich-nach-tirol,3003d873e.
3 Austrian Hail Insurance (25 June 2021). Doomsday Mood Causes Another Sad Record – 28 Million Euros Damage. Retrieved 11 March 2022 from https://www.hagel.at/presseaussendungen/weltuntergangsstimmung-verursacht-einen-weiteren-traurigen-rekord-28-millionen-euro-schaden/.
4 Vienna Insurance Group (3 January 2022). 2021 is a record year for Wiener Städtische in terms of storm damage. APA OTS. Retrieved 11 March 2022 from https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20220103_OTS0016/wiener-staedtische-verzeichnet-2021-rekordjahr-bei-unwetterschaeden.
5 Linz-Stadt (23 December 2021). "2021 was undoubtedly a year of extremes" – almost 160 million euros insurance benefits for storm damage. Retrieved 11 March 2022 from https://www.tips.at/nachrichten/linz/wirtschaft-politik/554252-2021-war-zweifellos-ein-jahr-der-extreme-knapp-160-millionen-euro-versicherungsleistungen-fuer-unwetterschaeden.
6 HV (29 July 2021). Hail Insurance: Climate Change Costs Livelihoods – 105 Million Euros in Damage. Retrieved 11 March 2022 from https://www.hagel.at/presseaussendungen/hagelversicherung-der-klimawandel-kostet-existenzen-105-millionen-euro-schaden/.
7 Oesterreich.gv.at. Climate Change and Its Consequences. Retrieved 13 March 2022 from https://www.oesterreich.gv.at/themen/bauen_wohnen_und_umwelt/klimaschutz/Seite.1000200.html.