Volume 62 (Special Issue) 2013

Reducing and managing risks of disasters in a changing climate

Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a core priority of WMO and one of the four priorities areas to be addressed by the Global Framework for Climate Services. An analysis of 1970-2009 EM-DAT1 data reveals 7 870, reported disasters from climate, hydro and meteorological hazards, leading to the loss of 1.86 million lives and causing economic damages amounting to US$ 1.954 trillion (adjusted to 2011 US$ prices). Disasters set back socio-economic development by years if not decades, particularly, in the less developed countries. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights that the frequency and severity of hydrometeorological hazards are on the rise, posing challenges to sustainable development and to building resilience in both developing and developed nations.


WMO DRR priorities (2012-2015)

Risk assessment – Information on the characteristics of weather and climate hazards needs to be complemented with exposure and vulnerability information to develop a complete picture of risks. The latest scientific advancements in climate modeling and forecasting provide unprecedented opportunities for analyzing and providing predictions of the changing patterns of hazard characteristics and longer lead-times for risk assessment. Individuals, communities, organizations, businesses and governments, armed with evidence concerning weather and climate risks, can make decisions to reduce them.

Early warning systems – Effective early warning systems include risk knowledge, monitoring and warning services, dissemination and communication, and response capacity. Climate services are critical for decisions on investing and strengthening early warning systems and for the development of emergency preparedness plans. Early warnings of hazards are critical for activating emergency plans on the ground.

Risk reduction in climate-sensitive sectors – Multi-sectoral planning to reduce disaster risk and to adapt to changing patterns of hazards due to climate variability and change require information on historical, current and forward-looking risk analysis. Relevant multi-sectoral planning and investment decisions include areas such as financial planning, land zoning, infrastructure and urban development, agricultural practices and food security measures, water management, health service provision, education planning and many others.

Risk financing and transfer – This involves the structured sharing of the potential financial impacts of disasters caused by natural hazards, often, but not strictly, through insurance mechanisms. A suite of risk financing and risk transfer approaches can be used at different levels to guarantee the availability of immediate post-disaster and longer-term recovery funds for which climate information on historical and forward-looking hazard characteristics are critical underpinning information.


Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses

WMO and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Université Catholique de Louvain, will release an Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Water and Climate Extremes (1970 – 2009) in November 2013. The publication will offer a bird’s eye view of weather, water and climate related disaster worldwide and their human and economic impacts. The next few pages, excerpt from the Atlas, offer a global picture then focus in on three WMO regions (Africa – Region 1, Asia – Region 2, and North America, Central America and the Caribbean – Region 4) for inter comparisons.


Global*, **

From 1970 to 2009, 7 870 hydrometeorological related disasters were reported globally, causing the loss of 1.9 million lives and economic damages of US$ 1.9 trillion. In that period, the top ten disasters in terms of human lives lost represented only 0.1 per cent of the total number of events, but accounted for 70 per cent (1.3 million) of the total lives lost. The ten costliest disasters accounted for 19 per cent (US$ 377 billion) of the overall economic losses.

Storms and floods accounted for 79 per cent of the total number of disasters and caused 56 per cent of the lives lost and 85 per cent of the economic losses. Droughts caused 37 per cent of the lives lost, mainly due to the severe African droughts of 1975 and 1983 – 1984.

The figures show that reported economic losses are increasing, while the number of lives lost reveals a slight decreasing trend. Droughts, tropical cyclones and floods are the major causes of loss of life and economic damage.


Ranking disasters according to deaths (top) and economic losses (bottom): Top 10 costliest disasters in Africa (1970-2009).

Disaster Type Year Country Number of deaths
Storm (Bhola) 1970 Bangladesh 300 000
Drought 1983 Ethiopia 300 000
Drought 1984 Sudan 150 000
Storm (Gorky) 1991 Bangladesh 138 866
Storm (Nargis) 2008 Myanmar 138 366
Drought 1975 Ethiopia 100 000
Drought 1983 Mozambique 100 000
Flood 1999 Venezuela 30 000
Flood 1974 Bangladesh 28 700
Extreme temperature 2003 Italy 20 089

Distribution of number of disasters

Distribution of (left) number of disasters, (middle) deaths and (right) total economic losses by hazard type reported globally (1970-2009)


Disaster Type Year Country Economic Losses (in US$ billion)
Storm (Katrina) 2005 United States 141.56
Storm (Andrew) 1992 United States 41.80
Flood 1998 China 40.71
Storm (Ike) 2008 United States 30.83
Flood 1995 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 21.77
Extreme temperature 2008 China 21.69
Storm (Ivan) 2004 United States 21.08
Drought 1994 China 20.53
Storm (Charley) 2004 United States 18.74
Flood 1993 United States 18.38

 

Ranking disasters according to deaths (top) and economic losses (bottom): Top 10 costliest disasters in Africa (1970-2009).

Disaster Type Year Country Number of Deaths
Drought 1983 Ethiopia 300 000
Drought 1984 Sudan 150 000
Drought 1975 Ethiopia 100 000
Drought 1983 Mozambique 100 000
Drought 1975 Somalia 19 000
Flood 1997 Somalia 2 311
Flood 2001 Algeria 921
Flood 2000 Mozambique 800
Flood 1995 Morocco 730
Flood 1994 Egypt 600

Disaster Type Year Country Economic Losses (in US$ billion)
Drought 1991 South Africa 1.62
Flood 1987 South Africa 1.49
Storm (Emilie) 1977 Madagascar 1.28
Drought 2000 Morocco 1.16
Drought 1977 Senegal 1.09
Storm (Gervaise) 1975 Mauritius 0.82
Storm 2011 South Africa 0.66
Storm 1990 Madagascar 0.61
Storm (Benedicte) 1981 Madagascar 0.57
Storm 1982 Canary Islands 0.55

WMO Region 1

In Africa from 1970 to 2009, 1 137 reported disasters caused the loss of 695 163 lives and economic damages of US$ 22.2 billion. Although floods were the most prevalent cause of disasters (59 per cent), droughts led to the highest number of deaths – some 97 per cent of all lives lost to weather, water and climate-related disasters in the region. The severe droughts in Ethiopia in 1975 and in Mozambique and Sudan in 1983–1984, respectively, caused the majority of the losses of lives. In contrast, the reports show that storms and floods caused the highest economic losses (75 per cent).

The top ten disasters in terms of human lives accounted for 97 per cent (674 000) of the total lives lost, while the top ten events in terms of economic losses accounted for 44 per cent (US$ 9.9 billion) of all losses.

The number of reported disasters is shown to be increasing while the number of lives lost – with the exception of the 1980–1989 anomaly associated with the severe droughts – reveals a slight decreasing trend. There was no discernable trend in the economic losses reported.


Distribution of number of disasters Africa

Distribution of (left) number of disasters, (middle) deaths and (right) total economic losses by hazard type reported globally (1970-2009)


Map of disasters and their related economic losses in Africa

Map of disasters and their related economic losses in Africa (in US$ billion, 1970-2009)


Map of disasters and their related deaths in Africa (1970-2009)

Map of disasters and their related deaths in Africa (1970-2009)


WMO Region 2

In Asia from 1970 to 2009, some 2 425 disasters were reported, causing the loss of 898 726 lives and economic damages of US$ 641 billion. The majority of the disasters were attributed to floods (45 per cent) and storms (36 per cent). Storms had the highest impact on life, causing 78 per cent of the lives lost, while floods caused the greatest economic damage (55 per cent). Three tropical cyclones, which struck Bangladesh and Myanmar leading to over 100 000 deaths, were the most significant events. Economic losses were mostly associated to disasters in China, most notably the 1998 floods.

The top ten disasters account for 74 per cent (665 000) of the total lives lost and 29 per cent (183 billion) of economic losses.

With the increasing number of reported disasters, economic losses also increased, however, the curve for number of lives lost showed a slight decreasing trend.


Distribution of number of disasters Asia (1970-2009)

Distribution of (top) number of disasters, (middle) deaths and (bottom) total economic losses by hazard type reported in Asia (1970-2009)


Map of disasters and their related economic losses in Asia (1970-2009)

Map of disasters and their related economic losses in Asia (in US$ billion, 1970-2009)


Map of disasters and their related deaths in Asia (1970-2009)

Map of disasters and their related deaths in Asia (1970-2009)


Ranking disasters according to deaths (top) and economic losses (bottom): Top 10 costliest disasters in Asia (1970-2009).

Disaster Type Year Country Number of deaths
Storm (Bohla) 1970 Bangladesh 300 000
Storm (Gorky) 1991 Bangladesh 138 866
Storm (Nargis) 2008 Myanmar 138 366
Flood 1974 Bangladesh 28 700
Storm (TC) 1985 Bangladesh 15 000
Storm (TC) 1977 India 14 204
Storm (TC) 1999 India 9 843
Storm (TC) 1971 India 9 658
Flood 1980 China 6 200
Storm (Sidr) 2007 Bangladesh 4 234

Disaster Type Year Country Economic Losses (in US$ billion)
Flood 1998 China 1.62
Flood 1995 Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 1.49
Extreme temperature 2008 China 1.28
Drought 1994 China 1.16
Flood 1996 China 1.09
Storm (Mireille) 1991 Japan 0.82
Flood 1991 China 0.66
Flood 1999 China 0.61
Flood 1993 India 0.57
Storm (Songda) 2004 Japan 0.55

WMO Region 4

In North America, Central America and the Caribbean from 1970 to 2009, there were 1 458 reported disasters that caused the loss of 68 708 lives and economic damages of US$ 803.7 billion. The majority of hydrometeorological and climate related disasters in this region were attributed to storms (54 per cent) and floods (34 per cent). Storms were reported to be the greatest cause of lives lost (72 per cent) and of economic damage (80 per cent). The most significant events in terms of lives lost were Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (14 932 lives lost), which affected Honduras and Nicaragua, and Hurricane Fifi in 1974 (8 000 lives lost), which affected Honduras. However, in terms of economic losses, it was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused US$ 142 billion in losses – the most costly disasters on record.

The top ten disasters in terms of human lives accounted for 58 per cent (40 000) of the total lives lost and in terms of economic losses 41 per cent (US$ 332 billion) of all losses.

The number of reported disasters and the amount of economic losses during the period are increasing significantly, while the number of lives lost shows no discernable tend.


Distribution of number of disasters (1970-2009)

Distribution of (top) number of disasters, (middle) deaths and (bottom) total economic losses by hazard type reported in North America, Central America and the Caribbean (1970-2009)


Map of disasters and their related economic losses in North America, Central America and the Caribbean (1970-2009)

Map of disasters and their related economic losses in North America, Central America and the Caribbean (in US$ billion, 1970-2009)


Map of disasters and their related deaths in North America, Central America and the Caribbean (1970-2009)

Map of disasters and their related deaths in North America, Central America and the Caribbean (1970-2009)


Ranking disasters according to deaths (top) and economic losses (bottom): Top 10 costliest disasters in North America, Central America and the Caribbean (1970-2009).

Disaster Type Year Country Number of deaths
Storm (Mitch) 1998 Honduras 14 600
Storm (Fifi) 1974 Honduras 8 000
Storm (Mitch) 1998 Nicaragua 3 332
Mass movement wet 1973 Honduras 2 800
Storm (Jeanne) 2004 Haiti 2 754
Flood 2004 Haiti 2 665
Storm (Katrina) 2005 United States 1 833
Storm (Stan) 2005 Guatemala 1 513
Storm (David & Frederick) 1979 Dominican Republic 1 400
Extreme temperature 1980 United States 1 260

Disaster Type Year Country Economic Losses (in US$ billion)
Storm (Katrina) 2005 United States 141.56
Storm (Andrew) 1992 United States 41.80
Storm (Ike) 2008 United States 30.83
Storm (Ivan) 2004 United States 21.08
Storm (Charley) 2004 United States 18.74
Flood 1993 United States 18.38
Storm (Rita) 2005 United States 18.12
Storm (Wilma) 2005 United States 16.19
Storm (Frances) 2004 United States 12.88
Storm (Hugo) 1989 United States 12.48


1 EM-DAT is the database of of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL): www.cred.be

 

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