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Natural Disasters


Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. These natural events remind us that we are small and vulnerable — and that living on this dynamic planet will always entail risk.
American Museum of Natural History

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This is the story of nearly 9000 natural disasters that have occurred globally between 1960 and 2018.  If it feels like more disasters have occurred in recent years, your perception is correct.  The increasing frequency is troubling as is the nature and impact of those events, and who is most affected by them. Let's take a look...

This data set chronicles disasters across 7 different categories, shown here by total event count.  So far the most frequent types of disasters have been floods and storms.

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Here is a look at how those events have played out across the globe.

If we compare the first 10 years of the data set with the last 10 years, the trend is clear: disasters are occurring now more than ever. How long can we realistically sustain this pace?

So what is the impact? Where are we seeing the largest loss of life? If we look at total death counts by event type, we can see that so far the largest death tolls have been from earthquakes and storms.

If we look again at the first 10 years and last 10 years of our data set, we can see how things have been changing. The frequency of events increased for every single event type, and death tolls increased for all but two types (storms and volcanic activity). Just as we saw in our previous charts, floods and earthquakes saw the highest event and death counts (respectively).

However, if we instead look at how things have evolved as a percent change from baseline, we see a new standout: extreme temperature takes the cake (by far) for the largest percentage increase in both event frequency and total death toll.

If we look now at the death toll for each individual event and how those tolls are distributed for each type, we can see which individual events are most likely to result in loss of life. The highest typical death toll is for extreme temperature events, which is particularly troubling when combined with the trends from the previous pane.

So where are the biggest impacts occurring? If we plot deaths on a linear scale we can see that only a small subset of events are responsible for the largest loss of life.

The deadliest 15 events include earthquakes, storms, droughts and extreme temperature events.

If we plot these same events by GDP per capita** we can see the inequality in who's facing the brunt of these disasters. Poorer countries are generally less prepared for disaster and see much higher loss of life.

**Some events take place in more than one country. In this case, only one of the affected countries is listed and GDP per capita is reported as an average across all countries, weighted by location count.

This same inequality persists when we look at all events.

Built on the shoulders of giants Thank you!

While no single event can definitively be attributed to climate change, the evidence is abundantly clear that the trend is certainly causally related, and it's indisputable at this point that our actions are causing climate change to occur in the first place.

It's not too late to start taking your carbon footprint seriously.

Fly less.    Buy electric.    Eat less meat.

Don't dismiss the power of small actions over time, don't dismiss the influence that your actions will have on those around you, and - most of all - don't dismiss hope.

The next generation is counting on us.

Built on the shoulders of giants Thank you!