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Extreme weather and climate events provide dramatic content for the news media, and the past few years have supplied plenty of material. The 2004 and 2005 Atlantic hurricane seasons were very active; the United States was struck repeatedly by landfalling major hurricanes. A five-year drought in the southwestern United States was punctuated in 2003 by wildfires in southern California that caused billions of dollars in losses. Ten cyclones of at least tropical storm strength struck Japan in 2004, easily breaking the 1990 and 1993 records of six cyclones each year. Hurricane Catarina was the first recorded hurricane in the South Atlantic. Europe's summer of 2003 saw record-breaking heat that caused tens of thousands of deaths.

These events have all been widely publicized, and they naturally raise several questions: Is climate changing, and if so, why? What can we expect in the future? How can we better respond to climate variability regardless of its source?

A workshop, held in Bermuda in October 2005, brought together insurers, reinsurers, and climate scientists interested in extreme events, in an effort to assess the current understanding of climate extremes. The workshop was cosponsored by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Risk Prediction Initiative (RPI), a science-business partnership, based at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, that is sponsored by a number of companies active in the property catastrophe insurance.