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The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970–2019)

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BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY

Background

The impacts of weather-, climate- and water-related hazards continue to adversely affect health and economic and social development worldwide. Some of these impacts have cascaded up from local to national and even international levels due to the growing interdependence of our societies and countries.

The analysis provided in this Atlas is based on Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters’ (CRED)
Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT). EM-DAT contains data on disasters associated with several types of natural hazards – geophysical, meteorological, climatological, hydrological, biological and extra-terrestrial – and technological disasters dating back to the year 1900. For more information on CRED see Annexes I and II.

According to CRED EM-DAT,1 from 1970 to 2019 there were 22 326 disasters that met their criteria for recording.
These reported 4 607 671 deaths and US$ 4.92 trillion in economic losses (Figure 1). An analysis of the EM-DAT records indicates that 62% of all recorded disasters, 80% of all deaths and almost all (99%) economic losses were associated with natural hazards.

Of the 22 326 disasters, 11 072 have been attributed to weather, climate and water hazards. These disasters resulted in 2.06 million deaths and US$ 3.64 trillion in losses. Thus, over the last 50 years, 50% of all recorded disasters, 45% of related deaths and 74% of related economic losses were due to weather, climate and water hazards. (Figure 4).
The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework call for countries to increase their resilience through the strengthening of risk reduction processes.

This publication focuses on the impacts that weather-, climate- and water-related hazards have on society, highlighting areas of disparity where more work is needed to support implementation of the Sendai Framework. It also calls attention to the significant benefits that can be achieved in strengthening disaster accounting processes through more systematic attribution of losses to the underlying hazard.

It is hoped that this publication will underscore the importance of partnerships among different international organizations and stakeholders in loss and damage accounting to increase awareness and strengthening of standards in loss accounting and related disaster databases.

Methodology

This Atlas provides statistical analyses of recorded disasters in EM-DAT spanning the 50-year period from 1970 to 2019 and describes the distribution and impacts of weather-, climate- and water-related disasters. To highlight impacts of specific weather, climate and water hazards, we have disaggregated the data where possible to the disaster subtype and sub-subtype (see Figure 2 and Annex II Table 10).

Quality control and verification were performed. The process consisted of: (a) comparison of the full dataset received from EM-DAT in late January 2020 to the dataset used to publish the 2014 Atlas to verify consistency and identify changes and updates; (b) dataset quality review to ensure that event records are verified and attributed to the correct associated hazards where possible; (c) preparation of data for analysis; (d) analysis and visualization of the data.

The analysis conducted follows the EM-DAT classification schema as shown in Figure 2 and Annex II Table 10.
Additionally, at the time of publication of this Atlas, there were no disaster records in EM-DAT for the main disaster types fog, glacial lake outburst and wave action, thus these hazards have been suppressed in the analysis and related graphics.

Analysis was carried out at the global scale as well as for each of the six WMO regions (see Annex III Figure 42 and Table 17). The number of disasters, related deaths and economic losses recorded in the database were assessed for the 50-year period as well as by decade (1970–1979, 1980–1989, 1990–1999, 2000–2009 and 2010–2019) to highlight significant disasters and areas of disparity, as well as any discernible trends over time. Lists of the 10 worst recorded disasters in terms of human deaths and economic losses during these periods are provided globally and for each WMO region.

EM-DAT provides a country-centric view of the impacts of hazards. This means that when a tropical cyclone impacts several countries, there are event records for each country. This is clearly seen in the tables in this Atlas containing top-10 rankings for deaths and economic losses where multiple disasters in different countries are attributed to a single tropical cyclone.

In the section “Focus on tropical cyclones” a hazardcentric view is taken, and all event records related to the hazard are aggregated into one single hazard event.

To ensure that all weather-, water-, and climaterelated disasters were included in this publication, the technological hazard group was also reviewed to identify where natural hazards were listed as a primary or main contributor. This review found 60 disasters in the technological group fitting this criteria:

• 51 transport accidents – total 67 deaths, no economic losses recorded;

• 6 miscellaneous accidents – total 145 deaths, no economic losses recorded;

• 3 industrial accidents – total 2 519 deaths, US$ 15 823 losses.

An example of these includes 46 transportation accidents (for example, a boat sinking, an aviation accident) associated with natural hazards such as “bad weather”. These disaster records have been included in the natural group under the appropriate hazard type.

The EM-DAT data were also analysed utilizing two different economic classifications – the United Nations country classification3 and the World Bank country classification by income group4 – to document, where possible, any disproportionate impacts by various economic groupings (Annex IV).

In the section “Focus on tropical cyclones” a detailed analysis of the EM-DAT data was conducted to extract all tropical cyclone-related records. EM-DAT classifies storms into three types: tropical cyclones, extratropical storms and convective storms. To extract the data for this section the following steps were performed:

(a) all records were extracted with a disaster subtype of tropical cyclone, which yielded a total of 1 945 disaster records;

(b) EM-DAT was reviewed for any reference to a tropical cyclone within other database parameters such as date, location and associated disaster; (c) because disasters in EM-DAT are recorded at the national level and a specific tropical cyclone that impacts multiple countries would have multiple disaster records (one per country), in this analysis, for the section “Focus on tropical cyclones” we have aggregated all related disaster records to the specific tropical cyclone with which they are associated.

Atlas outline

This Atlas consists of the following parts:

• Background and methodology

• Disaster-event attribution to natural hazards and climate change

• Status of mortality and economic losses due to weather, climate and water hazards from 1970 to 2019. This includes outcomes from the EM-DAT record from 1970 to 2019 at the global and WMO regional levels and a special section “Focus tropical cyclones” that details impacts associated with these phenomena.

• Role and potential of disaster loss databases. This part includes contributions from two WMO partners:
UNDRR on how disaster loss and damage data will be developed and utilized in monitoring the Sendai Framework; WHO on the health impacts of emergencies, quantifying mortality, challenges and opportunities for the improvement of monitoring disaster mortality in the health sector.