Natural disasters down in 2017, despite impact on North America

Posted: December 31, 2017 by oldbrew in Earthquakes, Natural Variation, wind

Flooding in New Zealand, 2017 [image credit: BBC]

The role of social media in mitigating the human cost of natural disasters may also have been significant.

About 30,000 people die from natural disasters per year. This year, the number was closer to 6,000, writes Seth Borenstein in the Toronto Star.

North America couldn’t catch a break in 2017. Parts of the United States were on fire, underwater or lashed by hurricane winds. Mexico shook with back-to-back earthquakes. The Caribbean got hit with a string of hurricanes.

The rest of the world, however, was spared more than usual from the drumbeat of natural catastrophes. Preliminary research shows there were fewer disasters and deaths this year than on average, but economic damages were much higher.

While overall disasters were down, they smacked big cities, which were more vulnerable because of increased development, said economist and geophysicist Chuck Watson of the consulting firm Enki Research.

In a year where U.S. and Caribbean hurricanes set a record $215 billion (U.S.) in damages, according to insurance giant Munich Re, no one in the continental U.S. died from storm surge, which traditionally is the No. 1 killer during hurricanes. Forecasters gave residents plenty of advance warning during a season where storms set records for strength and duration.

“It’s certainly one of the worst hurricane seasons we’ve had,” National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said.

The globe typically averages about 325 disasters a year, but this year’s total through November was less than 250, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the University of Louvain in Belgium. They included flooding and monsoons in South Asia, landslides in Africa, a hurricane in Ireland, and cyclones in Australia and Central America. Colombia experienced two different bouts of floods and mudslides.

Disasters kill about 30,000 people and affect about 215 million people a year. This year’s estimated toll was lower — about 6,000 people killed and 75 million affected.

Was it random chance, statistical quirk or better preparedness? Experts aren’t certain, but say perhaps it’s a little bit of each.

Continued here.

  1. manicbeancounter says:

    From a global perspective, disasters are well down on average. But from a media perspective disasters are increasing. Early last evening I watched a program on extreme weather events in the UK in 2017. There were a number of disasters recorded, such as that of a lady who was trapped in her car by a falling tree branch, that occurred in a gale. It made the TV program because she had a high-quality dashcam. Another clip was of a powerful lightning strike, where somebody escaped death by a few feet. Not only was the man who recorded the lightning strike recording it on his phone, two other people captured the images as well.
    Twenty years ago, TV reporters would have only been at the seen hours after a freak storm started, and mostly after it had long passed. Now, most people can start recording reasonable footage within seconds, with equipment in their pocket.

  2. oldbrew says:

    manic – authorities or individuals can also warn on social media about sudden dangers like flooding, wildfires etc.

  3. BA2204 says:

    The flooded town shown is Edgecumbe, NZ. It is on an active zone of crustal stretching ie subsidence, sinking. The last drop of several feet was not engineered against to make safe as quickly as required and planned. Too much virtue signalling and money-chasing by the Councils involved. It all must progress to the next stage of becoming a lovely lake…..

  4. oldbrew says:

    The Great Blizzard of 2018