WMO Maps Mortality and Economic Loss from Extreme Events

WMO11 July 2014: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium have jointly published the ‘Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2012,' which describes the distribution and impacts of weather, climate and water-related disasters, and highlights measures to increase resilience.

The Atlas provides decision makers with the information they require to act to protect lives and property. It also highlights the need for enhanced efforts to report, standardize and analyze data on weather, climate and water-related hazards to improve understanding of disasters and prevention.

While noting that disasters are on the rise, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud acknowledged that improved early warning systems and disaster management are helping to prevent loss of life. However, he also underscored that the “socioeconomic impact of disasters is escalating because of their increasing frequency and severity and the growing vulnerability of human societies.”

The Atlas indicates that from 1970 to 2012, 8,835 disasters, 1.94 million deaths and US$ 2.4 trillion in economic losses were reported as a result of hazards, such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, tropical cyclones and related health epidemics. The ten worst reported disasters in terms of lives lost occurred primarily in least developed and developing countries, while economic losses mainly took place in developed countries. The Altas highlights the importance of historical, geo-referenced information about deaths and damages to estimate risks prior to the next disaster so that decisions on reducing potential impacts can be taken.

CRED Director Debarati Sapir explained that collecting comparable and complete global loss data is a challenge. The UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) 2013 concluded that losses from natural hazards have been underestimated by at least 50% because of such challenges. The Atlas therefore calls on the international community to help vulnerable countries improve their capacity for developing and maintaining high-quality damage and loss databases. The changing characteristics (frequency, location and severity) of weather-, climate- and water-related hazards constitutes another challenge for risk information users.

The Atlas seeks to raise awareness of these and other challenges, and compares the reported impacts of meteorological, climatic and hydrological extremes on people and economies at the global and regional levels. It also provides details on disasters at the regional level, namely for: Africa; Asia; South America; North America, Central America and the Caribbean; the Southwest Pacific; and Europe.

The Atlas was published ahead of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee Meeting for the Third UN World Conference on DRR, and aims to inform the debate on the post-2015 framework for DRR and sustainable development. [WMO Press Release] [Publication: Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2012]