Between 1994 and 2013, EM-DAT recorded 6,873 natural disasters worldwide,
which claimed 1.35 million lives or almost 68,000 lives on average each year.
In addition, 218 million people were affected by natural disasters on average
per annum during this 20-year period.
The frequency of geophysical disasters (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions
and mass movements) remained broadly constant throughout this period, but a sustained
rise in climate-related events (mainly floods and storms) pushed total occurrences
significantly higher. Since 2000, EM-DAT recorded an average of 341 climate-related
disasters per annum, up to 44% from the 1994-2000 average and well over twice the
level in 1980-1989.
On January 4,2011, Munich Re and the Insurance Information Institute hosted a
webinar that provided an overview of 2011 natural catastrophes.
Speakers included Ernst Rauch, the head of Corporate Climate Center,
Munich Re, who provided a global national catastrophe update; Carl Hedde,
the head of Risk Accumulation, Munich Re America, whose presentation offered a
natural catastrophe update for the U.S.; Terese Rosenthal, Munich Re spokesperson;
and Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, whose report was
focused on the economic implications of natural catastrophe losses. The webinar notes
that in 2011 insured losses in the United States totaled $35.9 billion – above the
2000 to 2010 average loss of $23.8 billion (in 2011 Dollars). Events included a
very active thunderstorm (tornado-hail) season, with insured losses exceeding $25 billion,
more than double the previous record, and Hurricane Irene, which caused major flooding in
the northeastern U.S. Globally, the number of catastrophe events was 820, in line with
the 10-year from 2001 to 2010 average of 790, but insured losses reached a record $105 billion,
topping 2005 losses of $101 billion, with 47 percent of losses due to earthquakes.
The Japan earthquake and tsunami caused 15,840 fatalities, making it the
deadliest natural disaster in 2011.
From a disasters analysis point of view, population growth and patterns of economic
development are more important than climate change or cyclical variations in weather
when explaining this upward trend. Today, not only are more people in harm’s way than
there were 50 years ago, but building in flood plains, earthquakes zones and other
high-risk areas has increased the likelihood that a routine natural hazard will
become a major catastrophe.