The World Meteorological Organisation published the Atlas of mortality and economic losses from weather, climate and water extremes (1970–2012) on July 11, 2014. The Atlas summarizes the global impacts of the last four decades, based on extreme events such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, tropical cyclones and related health epidemics, and the related economic losses.
From 1970 to 2012, 8835 disasters, 1.94 million deaths, and US$ 2.4 trillion of economic losses were reported globally. The report provides decision-makers with information for protecting life and property in the future by highlighting measures to increase resilience.
The WMO press release stated, that the report “highlights the need for stronger efforts to report, standardize and analyze data on weather, climate, and water-related hazards to improve understanding of disasters and reinforce the platform for prevention.” In addition to global statistics and maps, details on disasters at the regional level are provided.
Storms and floods accounted for 79 per cent of the total number of disasters due to weather, climate and water extremes and caused 55 per cent of lives lost and 86 per cent of economic losses between 1970 and 2012, according to the Atlas. Droughts caused 35 per cent of lives lost, mainly due to the severe African droughts of 1975 and 1983–1984.
The 1983 drought in Ethiopia ranked top of the list of human casualties, claiming 300 000 lives, as did Cyclone Bhola in Bangladesh in 1970. Drought in Sudan in 1984 killed 150 000 people, whilst the Cyclone locally known as Gorky killed 138 866 people in Bangladesh in 1991.
Hurricane Katrina in the United States of America in 2005 caused the worst economic losses, at US$ 146.89 billion, followed by Sandy in 2012 with a cost of $50 billion.
The worst ten reported disasters in terms of lives lost occurred primarily in least developed and developing countries, whereas the economic losses were mainly in more developed countries.
“Disasters caused by weather, climate, and water-related hazards are on the rise worldwide. Both industrialized and non-industrialized countries are bearing the burden of repeated floods, droughts, temperature extremes and storms,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.
“Improved early warning systems and disaster management are helping to prevent loss of life. But the socio-economic impact of disasters is escalating because of their increasing frequency and severity and the growing vulnerability of human societies.”
Teaser image credit: IRRI