Climate Northern Ireland Logo
Extreme Weather Disasters

Extreme Weather Disasters 2 September 2021

Extreme weather disasters have increased fivefold in past 50 years, says UN report (via Independent)

By Daisy Dunne

The number of extreme weather disasters recorded across the globe has increased nearly fivefold in the past 50 years, according to a major UN assessment.

A total of 771 disasters linked to climate, weather or water extremes were recorded from 1970 to 1979, the report says. From 2010 to 2019, 3,165 such disasters were recorded.

The climate crisis, which is causing many types of extreme weather events to become more likely and more severe, is likely to be a key driver of the increase, says the report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

An increase in extreme weather event reporting could have also contributed to the rise, the report added.

“The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change,” said Prof Petteri Taalas, secretary–general of the WMO.

“That means more heatwaves, drought and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America.

“We have more water vapour in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms.”

A climate or weather event is considered a disaster if it kills at least 10 people, affects at least 100 people, a declaration of a state of emergency is made or a country makes a call for international assistance.

The report found that economic losses from climate and weather disasters have increased sevenfold over the past five decades.

Hurricanes and storms caused the highest amount of economic damages, the report said.

Three of the costliest 10 disasters in the past 50 years occurred in 2017. These include hurricanes Harvey (which caused $96.9bn in damages), Maria ($69.4bn) and Irma ($58.2bn).