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    Tuesday, July 29, 2014


    Atlas Of Mortality And Economic Losses From Weather, Climate And Water Extremes (1970–2012)

    July 2014 (World Meteorological Organization)


    Every year, disasters related to weather, climate and water hazards cause significant loss of life and set back economic and social development by years, if not decades From 1970 to 2012, 8 835 disasters, 1 94 million deaths and US$ 2 4 trillion of economic losses were reported globally1 as a result of droughts, floods, windstorms, tropical cyclones, storm surges, extreme temperatures, landslides and wildfires, or by health epidemics and insect infestations directly linked to meteorological and hydrological conditions This Atlas, a joint publication of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium (see Annex I), describes the distribution and impacts of weather-, climate- and water-related disasters from 1970 to 2012 It also highlights the actions and programmes led or coordinated by WMO to reduce the impacts of such disasters.

    Under the cross-cutting framework of its Disaster Risk Reduction Programme, WMO has launched an initiative to develop guidelines, recommended practices and standards s for hazard definition and classification to support the geo-referencing of loss and damage data and risk analysis As part of the activities of this Programme, WMO is working in cooperation with its technical commissions and programmes and the NMHSs of its 191 Members to develop statistical hazard mapping as well as forecasting and forward-looking modelling tools and methodologies for meteorological, hydrological and climate-related hazards to support loss and damage data collection and analysis and probabilistic risk modelling This initiative, combined with national capacity development projects, will enable countries to collect and develop hazard databases and metadata, carry out systematic geo-referencing of related loss and damage data and support risk modelling at local, national, regional and global scales.

    Underpinning this initiative is the significant capacity that WMO and its 191 Members have developed for gathering and disseminating data through two globally coordinated operational systems – the WMO Integrated Global Observing System and the WMO Information System.

    In addition, World Meteorological Centres, Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres (including Regional Climate Centres) and NMHSs provide weather and climate analyses, warnings, forecasts and other information services through the WMO Global Data-processing and Forecasting System on a 24/7 basis These various centres are also involved in other vital programmes and activities to support meteorological, hydrological and climate services for disaster risk reduction, such as the Tropical Cyclone Programme, which facilitates the development of operational tropical cyclone bulletins and information.

    WMO projects such as the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project use the resources and modelling capabilities of NMHSs to assist the severe weather forecasting and warning services of less developed NMHSs, in particular in least developed countries and small island developing States Other relevant WMO contributions include activities for the monitoring and integrated management of floods and droughts, the forecasting of storm surges and coastal inundation, climate prediction organized by Regional Climate Centres (RCCs), coordination of El Niño-Southern Oscillation reports, and the annual statements on the status of the global climate All of these activities ensure delivery of reliable and timely meteorological, climate and other related environmental services and information on hazards to decision-makers building on the WMO Strategy for Service Delivery.

    The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970–2012) is a first step by the new partnership of WMO and CRED to engage their respective national and global networks in improving national disaster loss and damage databases by linking them to the hazard information collected by WMO and its Members.

    Disaster database used for the analysis

    The analysis provided in this Atlas is based on the CRED EM-DAT database2, which contains data on disasters caused by several types of natural hazards – geophysical, meteorological, climatological, hydrological and biological – and technological disasters dating back to the year 1900. Of the over 20 700 reported disasters listed in the database, 62 per cent were caused by natural hazards and 38 per cent were technological. The objective of developing and maintaining this database is to provide evidence to support humanitarian actions and the development of national and international programmes.

    The disasters included in this report are classified as meteorological (storms), climatological (droughts, extreme temperatures and wildfires) and hydrological (floods and mass movement wet, which includes subsidence, rockfalls, avalanches and landslides). These categories were developed by CRED along with a number of its partners engaged in collecting loss and damage data associated with natural hazards (see Annex II, Table 1). Through the long experience of CRED in data collection and management, EM-DAT has provided a unique, public and global reference database of reported disasters. It ensures transparency through normative rules, clearly stated definitions and methodologies and selective validation methods and tools. Information sources were selected to describe disasters and their related losses as accurately as possible in EM-DAT (Annex II, Table 2). All events reported in EM-DAT should, moreover, meet the defined selection criteria (Annex II, Table 5).

    Over the years, data entry and delivery have become automated, making it easier to compare EM-DAT data across time and space. Thus, the quality and amount of loss and damage data from reported disasters have increased over time…


    From 1970 to 2012, 8 835 weather-, climate- and water-related disasters were reported globally. Together they caused the loss of 1.94 million lives and economic damages of US$ 2.4 trillion. The 10 worst reported disasters in terms of human lives lost represented only 0.1 per cent of the total number of events, but accounted for 69 per cent (1.34 million) of the total deaths. The 10 most costly disasters accounted for 19 per cent (US$ 443.6 billion) of overall economic losses. Storms, droughts, floods and extreme temperatures all figure on both lists of the worst disasters.

    Storms and floods accounted for 79 per cent of the total number of disasters due to weather, water and climate extremes and caused 54 per cent of deaths and 84 per cent of economic losses. Droughts caused 35 per cent of deaths, mainly due to the severe African droughts of 1975, 1983 and 1984.

    The 10 worst reported disasters in terms of lives lost occurred primarily in least developed and developing countries, whereas the economic losses occurred primarily in developed countries and in countries with economies in transition.


    In Africa, from 1970 to 2012, 1 319 reported disasters caused the loss of 698 380 lives and economic damages of US$ 26.6 billion. Although floods were the most prevalent type of disaster (61 per cent), droughts led to the highest number of deaths, accounting for some 96 per cent of all lives lost to weather-, climate- and water-related disasters in the region. The severe droughts in Ethiopia in 1975 and 1983 and in Mozambique and Sudan in 1983 and 1984 caused the majority of deaths. Storms and floods, however, caused the highest economic losses (78 per cent).

    The 10 worst reported disasters in terms of human deaths accounted for 97 per cent (674 362) of the total number of lives lost. The 10 biggest reported events in terms of economic losses accounted for 42 per cent (US$ 11.3 billion) of all losses…


    In Asia, 2 681 disasters were reported in the 1970–2012 period, resulting in the loss of 915 389 lives and economic damages of US$ 789.8 billion. Most of these disasters were attributed to floods (45 per cent) and storms (35 per cent). Storms had the highest impact on the number of deaths, causing 76 per cent of the fatalities, while floods caused the greatest economic loss (60 per cent). Three tropical cyclones were the most significant events, striking Bangladesh and Myanmar and leading to over 500 000 deaths. Economic losses were caused primarily by disasters in China, most notably by the 1998 floods. The 10 worst reported disasters accounted for 73 per cent (665 071) of the total deaths and 29 per cent (US$ 227.5 billion) of economic losses. The increase in mortality during the periods 1991–2000 and 2001–2010 was mainly due to two major tropical cyclones that caused significant loss of life in Bangladesh in 1991 and Myanmar in 2008 (Cyclone Nargis)…

    South America

    During the 43-year period of 1970–2012, South America experienced 696 reported disasters that resulted in 54 995 lives lost and US$ 71.8 billion in economic damages.

    Most of the reported disasters related to weather, climate and water extremes involved floods (57 per cent) and mass movement wet (16 per cent). With regard to impacts, floods caused the greatest number of casualties (80 per cent) and the most economic loss (63 per cent). The most significant event during the period was a flood and wet mass movement that occurred in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in late 1999 and caused 30 000 deaths. This single event skews the loss of life statistics significantly for the entire region.

    The 10 worst reported disasters accounted for 63 per cent (34 688) of total deaths and 43 per cent (US$ 30.7 billion) of economic losses…

    North America, Central America, and the Caribbean

    In North America, Central America and the Caribbean, the period from 1970 to 2012 saw 1 631 reported disasters that caused the loss of 71 246 lives and economic damages of US$ 1 008.5 billion. The majority of the reported hydrometeorological and climate-related disasters in this region were attributed to storms (55 per cent) and floods (30 per cent). Storms were reported to be the greatest cause of casualties (72 per cent) and economic loss (79 per cent). The most significant events in terms of lives lost were Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (17 932 deaths), which affected Honduras and Nicaragua, and Hurricane Fifi in 1974 (8 000 deaths), which affected Honduras. However, in terms of economic damage, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the most costly disaster on record, resulting in US$ 146.9 billion in losses.

    The 10 worst reported disasters in terms of human deaths accounted for 56 per cent (39 879) of the total reported lives lost, and in terms of economic damages, they accounted for 38 per cent (US$ 388.2 billion) of all losses…

    South-West Pacific

    The South-West Pacific experienced 1 156 reported disasters in 1970–2012 that resulted in 54 684 lives lost and US$ 118.4 billion in economic losses. The majority of these disasters were caused by storms (46 per cent) and floods (38 per cent).

    Storms were reported to be the greatest cause of deaths (68 per cent). Economic losses were more evenly distributed amongst the four hazard types: storms (46 per cent), drought (18 per cent), wildfire (14 per cent) and floods (21 per cent). The most significant reported disasters with regard to lives lost were tropical cyclones, mainly in the Philippines, including the event of 1991, which took 5 956 lives. As for economic damages, the 1981 drought in Australia caused US$ 15.2 billion in economic losses and the 1997 wildfires in Indonesia caused US$ 11.4 billion in losses.

    The 10 worst reported disasters accounted for 33 per cent (17 933) of the total deaths and 50 per cent (US$ 59.0 billion) of the economic losses.


    In Europe, 1 352 reported disasters caused 149 959 deaths and US$ 375.7 billion in economic damages during the 1970–2012 period.

    Although floods (38 per cent) and storms (30 per cent) were the most reported causes of disasters, extreme temperatures led to the highest proportion of deaths (94 per cent), with 72 210 lives lost during the 2003 European heatwave and 55 736 during the 2010 heatwave in the Russian Federation. In contrast, floods and storms accounted for most of the economic losses during the period.

    The 10 worst reported disasters accounted for 85 per cent (127 058) of total lives lost and 25 per cent (US$ 92.7 billion) of economic losses associated to weather-, water- and climate-related hazards.

    Regional Intercomparisons

    Storms, floods and droughts are among the most recurrent weather-, climate- and water-related hazards around the world. However, the distribution of deaths and economic losses from these hazards varies from Region to Region. For example, the main contributors to the loss of life have been droughts in Africa; storms in Asia, in Central America, North America and the Caribbean, and in the South-West Pacific; floods in South America; and heatwaves in Europe. On the other hand, a large portion of economic losses has been attributed to floods in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe, and to storms in Central America, North America and the Caribbean, and the South-West Pacific…


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