Article image

Weather disasters are getting even worse

A new report from the UN says that weather disasters are five times more prevalent today than in the 1970’s and cause seven times more damage. A silver lining to this storm cloud is that weather disasters are now less deadly. 

In the 70s and 80s, an average of 170 people were killed each day by weather events worldwide. This number dropped to 40 by the 2010’s. 

“The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. 

“That means more heat waves, drought and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America.” 

“We have more water vapor in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms,” 

The dynamic that is driving the increased financial cost seems to be people moving into areas with a greater risk of extreme weather as the human population grows and the threat of climate change looms. At the same time, better warning technology allows more people to escape with their lives. 

Professor Taalas noted that “we are better than ever before at saving lives” with improved multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster management methods. At the same time, however, some of the hardest hit countries are yet to benefit from improved technology.  

“The good news is that we have been able to minimize the amount of casualties once we have started having growing amount of disasters – heatwaves, flooding events, drought, and especially intense tropical storms like Ida, which has been hitting recently Louisiana and Mississippi in the United States,” said Professor Taalas.

“But the bad news is that the economic losses have been growing very rapidly and this growth is supposed to continue.”

The report analyzed 11,000 weather disasters that have occured since the 1970s, looking at the economic cost as well as the death toll. All of the five most expensive weather disasters happened in the United States, with Hurricane Katrina being the most costly. The United States also bears over one-third of all costs associated with weather, climate and water extremes. 

Of the deadliest weather disasters, droughts killed the most people (650,000) followed by storms (577,232). In addition, extreme heat killed 55,736 people during the study period. Weather disasters are only set to get worse, but how much money and lives they cost will depend on how prepared we are.     

By Zach Fitzner, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day