Weather-related Disasters Dominate

Petra Löw | Oct 01, 2008

In 2007, there were 874 weather-related disas­ters worldwide, a 13-percent increase over 2006 and the highest number since the systematic recording of natural perils began in 1974.1 Weather-related disasters around the world have been on the rise for decades (see Figure 1): on average, 300 events were recorded every year in the 1980s, 480 events in the 1990s, and 620 events in the last 10 years.2

Weather-related disasters can be divided into meteorological, hydrological, and climatological events.3 The category of meteorological events includes tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones), extratropical cyclones (winter storms), and local storms (severe storms, thunderstorms, hailstorms, snow­storms, and tornadoes). Hydrological events include floods (general floods, flash floods, storm surges/coastal floods) and wet mass movements (rockfalls, landslides, avalanches, subsidence). And climatological events include extreme temperatures (heat waves, cold waves, extreme winter conditions), droughts, and wildfires (forest fires, bush/brush fires, scrub/grassland fires, urban fires).4

In 2007, weather-related disasters accounted for 91 percent of all natural disasters, a broader classification that also includes earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and dry mass movements.5 About 81 percent of economic losses from natural catastrophes and 97 percent of insured losses resulted from weather-related disasters.6 And all six “great natural disasters” in 2007—three storms and three floods—were weather-related.7 A “great natural disaster” occurs if the affected region’s ability to help itself is overstretched and supraregional or international assistance is required. As a rule, this is the case when there are thousands of fatalities, when hundreds of thousands of people are made homeless, or when the overall losses or the insured losses reach exceptional orders of magnitude.

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