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MIAMI - A hurricane that hit Miami in 1926 would cause up to $157 billion in damage if it were to strike today, according to a study published this week.
US storm costs are rising because of higher populations and wealth on the coasts, not a spike in the number or power of hurricanes, the study said. Its conclusions run counter to the notion that the $150 billion in damages caused by the destructive Atlantic hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 might be linked to global warming, which some scientists believe is behind a spate of extraordinarily powerful hurricanes in recent years.

An extrapolation of current trends "suggests a storm like the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane could result in perhaps $500 billion in damage as soon as the 2020s," the study said.

Hurricanes and their destructive potential have become a key concern in global energy, insurance and commodities markets in the last decade. Scientists believe the Atlantic basin entered a new era of more frequent hurricanes around 1995, which could last 25 to 40 years.


"Unless action is taken to address the growing concentration of people and property in coastal hurricane areas, the damage will increase by a great deal as more people and infrastructure inhabit these coastal areas," said Landsea, a researcher with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The study was published in Natural Hazards Review, a publication aimed at civil engineers.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)
Story by Jim Loney