50 years of global weather: More disasters, but fewer deaths according to new report

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This satellite image provided by NOAA shows a view of Hurricane Ida, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Forecasters warned residents along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast to rush preparations Saturday ahead of an intensifying Hurricane Ida, which is expected to bring winds as high as 130 mph (209 kph), life-threatening storm surge and flooding rain when it slams ashore in Louisiana on Sunday. (NOAA via AP)

(KXAN) — A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) sheds light on the amount of weather-related natural disasters that have happened over the past 50 years and the deaths that have occurred due to those disasters.

Amazingly a natural disaster related to weather, climate or water happened on average EVERY DAY over the past 50 years. Each disaster caused an average of $202 million in damage and 115 deaths.

We now have an average of 5 times more disasters today than we did 50 years ago, but interestingly we now see an average of 3 times fewer deaths than we did 50 years ago. Disaster preparedness and management along with early warnings contributed significantly to the reduction in deaths over this time period. In the 1970s 50,000 people died from disasters, but that number dropped to fewer than 20,000 in the 2010s.

Still from 1970 to 2019 2 million people died as a result of 11,000 reported disasters.

Out of all disasters, half of them were weather-related with 91% of deaths happening in developing countries.

Droughts caused the most deaths with 650,000 perishing, storms were a close second at 577,000 deaths with floods and extreme temperatures much farther behind with more than 55-thousand deaths each.

While the number of deaths for each disaster has dropped, economic losses are seven times higher for each disaster now than in the 1970s.

Of the top 10 costliest disasters ever, three of them occurred in 2017: Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma.

While the improvements in death counts per disaster have improved, the World Meteorological Organization suggested a few areas for improvement:

  • Review hazard exposure and vulnerability considering a changing climate to reflect that tropical cyclones may have different tracks, intensity and speed than in the past.
  • Strengthen disaster risk financing mechanisms at national to international levels, especially for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States and Territories.
  • Develop integrated and proactive policies on slow-onset disasters such as drought.

Of all weather disasters, tropical cyclones and droughts killed the most people with the two combined accounting for 72% of all deaths over that 50 year period.

In North America storms and floods were the most frequent disasters while storms killed the most people.

No surprise that Climate Change played a pivotal role in the increase in weather-related disasters over the past 50-years.

Increased sea levels caused by climate change have increased the coastal problems caused by tropical cyclones. Climate change may not be as easy to blame for the number of drought events, but the increased frequency of heat waves and floods caused by extreme rainfall corollate to the changing climate caused by humans.

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