Facts and Statistics About Natural Disasters
As we watch the international news each day, the weather seems to be getting fiercer and wilder. From devastating hurricanes to wildfires to floods, the human and economic costs of natural disasters is huge. Each time there is an extreme weather event that causes major loss of life and property, this is defined as a natural disaster.
Natural disasters are an especially serious problem for smaller, developing nations because they can quickly wipe out a major part of their economic activity. Those effects can linger for years, even decades.
As climate change and changes in the environment continue to take hold across the world, we are seeing an increasing number of natural disasters that are taking a heavy toll on the planet and people. The infographic below tells us in revealing detail about some of the grim statistics behind recent natural disasters.
For example, the death toll from flood skyrocketed in the 1900s, with more than five million killed. Between 1930 and 1940, more than 4 million died in flooding in China, while 471,000 died in hurricanes in the 1970s in Pakistan and China.
As society is growing more complex and populations growing, the economic costs of natural disasters has soared. The most expensive natural disasters in recorded history were:
- Tsunami and earthquake in Japan 2011: $240 million
- Kobe earthquake in Japan 1995: $200 million
- Hurricane Katrina in US 2005: $175 million
- Northridge earthquake in US 1994: $90 million
- Sichuan earthquake in China 2008: $90 million
- Hurricane Andrew in US 1992: $75 million
In recent years, the 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Japan was especially devastating with $200 million or more in damages, and 14,000 fatalities. Texas has led the US in recent years with 86 declared disasters.
Forces of Nature Gathering Strength
The IMF reports from 1990 to 2014, there were at least 8,000 weather related disasters that included floods, hurricanes, and epidemics. In a study of 228 countries, the IMF reviewed the historical relationship between the occurrence of each type of weather related natural disaster, and the monthly weather patterns over 25 years.
They found temperature and precipitation are important factors in many weather-related natural disasters. As anticipated, higher temperature is often related to more disasters such as wildfires, droughts, cyclones and other storms. More precipitation is associated with fewer of these disasters, but is associated with floods, tropical cyclones, landslides and other major storms.
The IMF also has been studying how climate change and global warming may affect the frequency of natural disasters in the future. The organization combined empirical estimates from historical weather data with projected temperature and precipitation data for each nation under the unmitigated climate change scenario that has been created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This allowed the IMF to predict the probability of major weather-related disasters in 2050 and 2100. Under this scenario, it is estimated global mean temperatures will rise by 4 degrees Celsius by 2100.
IMF’s findings suggest most major weather-related natural disasters will be more commonplace by the end of the 21st century, for all income groups. There will be a considerable increase of natural disasters from heat waves, cyclones and wildfires. Scientists generally expect the frequency of tropical cyclones will drop in a warmer environment, but the storms that form will be more intense and will cause more human and economic damage.
Further, floods and epidemics will be more common as there are more heatwaves and heavy rains. Mosquitoes and dangerous pathogens are able to reproduce and spread more quickly when the environment is warmer.
Girding for Change
The evidence suggests weather related natural disasters will become more intense and frequent. Therefore, the world must prepare for these changes. Countries will be well served to invest in more resilient infrastructure that can handle rising sea levels and more wind speed. Updating local zoning ordinances and building codes will help to deal with the effects of more severe weather. Better early warning systems also can save lives and money. Most importantly, countries should put money aside so they can afford to spend more when the inevitable climate-related natural disaster hits.
What You Can Do
As natural disasters are becoming more frequent in our changing world, there are things we can do on an individual level to prepare ourselves and our families. When a natural disaster may affect your community, here are six things you can do to prepare:
- Secure it: Prepare the house by securing all electronics, book shelves and other vulnerable items. Have your foundation inspected every few years to ensure your home can handle a major storm.
- Make a plan: Have an evacuation and reunion plan ready for your family.
- Disaster kit: Should include food, water, flashlights, radio, batteries, first aid kit, cash and medicine.
- Protect: Be ready to get to a safe place fast.
- Check it out: After the disaster, check your immediate surroundings to ensure you are secure.
- Communicate: Use your portable radio and check for advisories.
Also, be sure that each member of your family has a 72 hour survival kit in case of a major natural disaster. Some items it should include are:
- Food and water
- Bedding and clothing
- Fuel and light
- Basic equipment for eating and surviving
- Personal items, including toiletries and medications
- Documents and cash
Natural disasters are becoming more frequent, but there are things we can do in our lives to prepare for them.
- Climate Change Will Bring More Frequent Natural Disasters. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://blogs.imf.org/2017/11/16/climate-change-will-bring-more-frequent-natural-disasters-weigh-on-economic-growth/