According to the World Meteorological Organization, the number of weather-related natural disasters has increased fivefold over the past 50 years. Scientists argue that natural disasters have become more frequent due to climate change and more extreme weather conditions.
However, deaths due to more storms, floods and droughts have become much less. In recent years, natural disasters have become better recorded: the quality of observations has increased markedly. And, according to experts, it was the new warning and forecasting systems that helped reduce the number of victims.
In recent decades, the average annual temperature of the planet has risen significantly, leading to an increase in the number of weather-related natural disasters. More than 11,000 such disasters have occurred over 50 years (1970 to 2019), according to a new WMO Atlas.
Floods in Bangladesh have claimed a huge number of lives and caused significant economic damage in recent decades
As a result of natural disasters, more than two million people died, and the economic damage caused by them is estimated at $ 3.64 trillion.
“In many parts of the world, as a result of climate change, the number of recorded extreme meteorological, climatic and hydrological events is increasing, and their frequency and magnitude will also increase,” Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, quotes WMO.
"This means an increase in heatwaves, droughts and wildfires, like those we have seen recently in Europe and North America," continues Taalas. "There is more water vapor in the atmosphere, exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. oceans affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms."
More than 90% of deaths associated with weather disasters occurred in developing countries. The worst in this regard turned out to be droughts, which claimed the lives of 650 thousand people. At the same time, extreme temperatures claimed almost 56 thousand lives.
But over a 50-year period, the total death toll from natural disasters has declined rapidly.
"There is hope behind harsh statistics. Improved early warning systems have led to significant reductions in mortality. Simply put, we are saving lives better than ever before," said Professor Taalas.
Although the number of victims of climatic disasters is declining, the economic losses from them are growing.
Reported losses for the period from 2010 to 2019 were about $ 383 million per day. That's seven times the average $ 49 million a day between 1970 and 1979.
2017: not a cheap year
Kingswood, Texas hit hard by Hurricane Harvey in 2017
Then hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma hit the United States. The combined economic losses from these three natural disasters accounted for 35% of the total losses from the 10 largest disasters between 1970 and 2019.
According to the WMO Atlas, new warning systems are helping to save lives, but more needs to be done. Only half of the 193 WMO Members have early warning systems for many hazardous meteorological events.
Aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which devastated parts of the Caribbean and the United States in 2017
There are also significant gaps in the networks of meteorological and hydrological observing stations in Africa, parts of Latin America and the Pacific and Caribbean island states.
"Early warning systems save more lives, but it is also true that the number of people at risk of disasters is increasing due to the growing population in hazard-prone areas and the increased intensity and frequency of weather events," said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction "Greater international cooperation is needed to tackle the persistent problem of displaced people every year by floods, storms and droughts."
Mizutori also called for increased investment in the international disaster risk management system.
How our planet has changed in 40 years: