Earth had a relatively quiet year for natural disasters in 2014, with the combined economic losses adding up to $132 billion US dollars--37% below the $211 billion per year average damages from the previous ten years, said insurance broker Aon Benfield in their Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report
issued today. There were 25 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2014, and 27 billion-dollar natural disasters (including earthquakes.) This is slightly below the ten-year average of 27 billion-dollar weather disasters and contrasts sharply with 2013, which set a new record for billion-dollar weather disasters with 41.
The most expensive natural disaster of 2014 was September flooding in India and Pakistan caused by torrential monsoon rains. The $16 billion in damage done in India's Jammu and Kashmir region made the flood that nation's most expensive natural disaster in history, surpassing the $11.6 billion price tag (2014 dollars) of the July 1993 monsoon floods,
according to EM-DAT
, the International Disaster Database. India was the only nation to suffer its most expensive natural disaster in history in 2014. For comparison, six nations had their most expensive natural disaster in history in 2013. The deadliest disaster of 2014 was a multi-month period of flash flooding and landslides that killed an estimated 2,600 people in Afghanistan.U.S. sees 8 - 9 billion-dollar weather disasters
In the U.S., there were nine billion-dollar weather disasters in 2014, according to Aon Benfield. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center
gave a lower number of U.S. billion-dollar weather disasters in 2013: eight, which is also the ten-year average of these disasters. The eight billion-dollar weather disasters of 2014 marked the 6th highest yearly total since 1980. Five of the top six years for these disasters have occurred in the past seven years. Billion-dollar events account for roughly 80%
of the total U.S. losses for all weather-related disasters.Figure 1.
The yearly number of billion-dollar U.S. weather disasters, adjusted for inflation, as compiled by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.Figure 2.
The yearly number of billion-dollar global weather disasters, adjusted for inflation, as compiled by insurance broker Aon Benfield in their Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Reports
. The increasing trend in weather disaster losses is thought to be primarily due to increases in wealth and population, and to people moving to more vulnerable areas--though the studies attempting to correct damage losses for these factors are highly uncertain. Climate change may be partly to blame for the rise in disaster losses, but we are better off looking at how the atmosphere, oceans, and glaciers are changing to find evidence that climate change is occurring--and there is plenty of evidence there. I discuss this topic in more detail in a 2012 post, Damage Losses and Climate Change.The 25 billion-dollar weather disasters of 2014Multi-Month Drought Disaster 1.
China's 2nd most expensive drought in its history hit during the summer of 2014, costing $5.2 billion and bringing nine Chinese provinces some of their lowest rain totals since 1961. Among the worst-hit areas were Shandong, Shaanxi, Henan, and Inner Mongolia, where the lack of rainfall caused severe damage to crops and limited the availability of drinking water. In this photo, we see a farmer standing in dried and cracked earth that used to be the bottom of Zhifang Reservoir on July 29, 2014 in Dengfeng, China. Photo credit: ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images.Multi-Month Drought Disaster 2.
Southeastern Brazil's worst drought in 50 years brought São Paulo, South America's largest city with a population near 20 million, to the brink of running out of water late in 2014.
The drought cost at least $4.3 billion, making it the third most expensive natural disaster in Brazil's history. This is the second consecutive year of disastrous drought in Brazil--drought in Northeast Brazil during the first five months of 2013 caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, making it Brazil's second most expensive natural disaster in history. According to the international disaster database EM-DAT,
Brazil's costliest natural disaster was the drought of 1978 ($2.3 billion in 1978 dollars, or $8.3 billion 2014 dollars.) In this photo, we see cattle in a drought-parched field in Quixada, Ceara state, Brazil on January 2, 2014. Small farmers in Ceara state have not able to harvest corn to feed cattle, and have been selling them at a loss. Aurelien Francisco Barros/AFP/Getty Images. Multi-Month Drought Disaster 3.
The Western U.S. drought of 2014 brought damages estimated at $4 billion. Severe, extreme or exceptional drought covered 95% of California by September 2014, thanks to a drought that one research team
said was the state's worst 1-year and 3-year drought for at least 1,200 years. The California Farm Water Coalition estimated agricultural losses at $3.6 billion in California. In this photo, we see one of the key water supply reservoirs for Central California, Lake Oroville,
on January 20, 2014. California endured its hottest year on record in 2014, which exacerbated the drought. Image credit: California Department of Water Resources
The cold wave and winter weather associated with the Midwest and Eastern U.S. "Polar Vortex" episode of January 5 - 8, 2014, cost an estimated $3 billion and resulted in 21 deaths. In this picture, we see snow shovelers take a break in South Haven, Michigan after an epic lake effect snowstorm buried the city on January 8, 2014. Image credit: Wunderphotographer nanamac.FebruaryDisaster 1.
Volunteers use a pontoon to move a car that has been cut off by flood waters at Burrowbridge on the Somerset Levels on February 27, 2014 in Somerset, England. Portions of England and Wales experienced their wettest winter since records began in 1766, causing $1.5 billion in damage during December 23, 2013 - March 1, 2014. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) Disaster 2.
Pedestrians cross a street in the snow in Tokyo on February 15, 2014. The heaviest snow in decades fell across portions of Japan February 8 - 16, 2014, killing 95 and injuring 2,750, mostly in traffic accidents. Tokyo's 27 centimeters (10.6 inches) of snow was the most snow in 45 years. The heavy snow caused widespread residential and commercial damage while also severely disrupting transportation and causing production delays. Total economic losses were estimated at $5 billion. Photo credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images.AprilDisaster 1.
The U.S. tornado outbreak of April 27 - May 1
killed 39 and caused $1.6 billion in damage. Eleven tornadoes rated EF-3 or higher touched down, including two EF-4 tornadoes. In this photo we see tornado damage at an RV dealership in Mayflower, Arkansas, from an EF-4 tornado that hit on April 28, 2014, killing one person. Image credit: Wunderphotographer ChanChan72.Disaster 2.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes April 2 - 4 did $1.5 billion in damage across the U.S. Midwest, Plains, and Southeast. In this image, we see the outcome when an April 3, 2014 severe thunderstorm in Belleville, IL snapped large pine tree about 20 feet up from its base and blew it across the street into a house and car. Image credit: wunderphotographer mwhiker
Visible satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Ita taken at 04 UTC April 11, 2014. At the time, Ita was a Category 4 storm with 145 mph sustained winds. Ita ravaged agriculture in Queensland, Australia, resulting in $1 billion in damage. Image credit: NASA.Disaster 4.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes April 12 - 14 did $1 billion in damage across the U.S. Midwest, Plains, and Southeast. In this image, we a squall line blowing into Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 13, 2014. Image credit: Wunderphotographer mrwing13
Torrential rains on May 14 - 15 in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina caused extreme flooding that killed 86 people and caused $4.5 billion in damage. The heavy rains were caused by Extratropical Storm Yvette, a strong and slow-moving upper-level low pressure that cut off from the jet stream and lingered over the region for two days, pulling up copious amounts of moisture from the Mediterranean Sea. This photo shows a landslide and floodwaters around houses in the village of Topcic Polje, near the central Bosnian town of Zenica, on May 15, 2014. Photo credit: ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images.Disaster 2.
Flooding rains in China May 24 - 28 killed 37 people and caused $1.2 billion in damage. In this image we see dark clouds gathering in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province of China on May 22, 2014. Image credit: ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images.Disaster 3.
An outbreak of severe weather hit the Midwest, Rockies, and Northeast U.S. from May 18 - 23, causing $4 billion in damage. In this image taken by wunderphotographer Darhawk
, we see a supercell thunderstorm near Denver, Colorado on May 22, 2014 that prompted issuance of a tornado warning.JuneDisaster 1.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms across Germany, France and Belgium on June 8 - 10, 2014 killed six people in Germany and did $4 billion in damage. Hail up to 7.0 centimeters (2.75 inches) in diameter and winds beyond 145 kph (90 mph) were recorded. Extensive crop damage was also noted in southwestern France around Bordeaux, Cognac, and Languedoc where swaths of vineyards were destroyed. In this image, a boy walks next to a tree that fell on a building on June 9, 2014 in Cognac, France a few hours after a violent storm. Image credit: NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images.Disaster 2.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes June 3 - 9 killed three people and did $1.7 billion in damage across the U.S. Midwest, Plains, and Rockies. In this photo, we see lightning damage to a tree in Galesburg, IL on June 6, 2014. Image credit: wunderphotographer Netwalkr.JulyDisaster 1.
With a name meaning “thunder of God,” Rammasun was the strongest typhoon to hit China’s Hainan Province in 41 years. Rammasun peaked as a Category 4 super typhoon with 155 mph, and hit China with top sustained winds of 140 mph. Rammasun killed 206 and did $7.2 billion in damage. This image was taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite at 1:35 p.m. local time (0535 UTC) on July 18, 2014, when Rammasun was just off the coast of northern Hainan Island. Image credit: NASA Natural Hazards.Disaster 2.
Torrential monsoon rains over southern China July 13 - 18, 2014, killed 66 people and did $1.25 billion in damage. In this photo, a bridge in Fenghuang Ancient Town is submerged by flood waters on July 15, 2014 in Jishou, China. Image credit: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images.AugustDisaster 1.
Torrential rains swamped Detroit, Baltimore, and Long Island August 11 - 13, killing one person and causing $2 billion in damage. About $1 billion of the damage occurred in the Detroit area, where two months’ worth of precipitation fell in just 24 hours. In this photo, we see flooding near Islip, New York, on August 13, 2014. Islip set an all-time New York state record for 24-hour precipitation with 13.57". Image credit: wunderphotographer Hurricane765.SeptemberDisaster 1.
Torrential monsoon rains of over 12" (305 mm) lashed the India-Pakistan border region of Kashmir and Jammu Provinces on September 3 - 7, triggering devastating floods that swept through the mountainous region, killing at least 648 people and doing $18 billion in damage. Hardest-hit were India's Jammu and Kashmir region, where damages were estimated at $16+ billion. According to EM-DAT
, the International Disaster Database, this is the most expensive natural disaster in India's history, surpassing the $11.6 billion price tag (2014 dollars) of the July 1993 monsoon floods.
In Pakistan, at least 207 people died and damage was estimated at $2 billion. Crippling and catastrophic floods have become the new normal in Pakistan, where the six most expensive floods in their history have come in the past eight years--2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2007, and 2013. In this image, we see Indian residents look on from a roof as raging waters from the overflowing Tawi river inundate a Hindu Temple in Jammu on September 6, 2014. Image credit: STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images.Disaster 2.
Typhoon Kalmaegi hit the Philippines, China, and Vietnam between September 10 - 16, killing at least 31 and doing $3 billion in damage. The typhoon's first landfall, as a Category 1 storm, came in the Philippines’ Luzon Island, where 12 people were killed and at least 1,500 homes damaged, with damages estimated at $14 million. Kalmaegi killed nine people in China and did $2.9 billion in damage. In Vietnam, ten people were killed across northern sections of the country, and damages were estimated at $4.5 million. In this image, we see Kalmaegi as it swirled to the south of the island of Taiwan at night, as seen from the International Space Station by astronaut Reid Wiseman (@astro_reid) at 3 pm EDT September 14, 2014. At the time, Kalmaegi had just crossed the Philippines' Luzon Island as a Category 1 typhoon, and had weakened to a tropical storm with 70 mph winds. Hong Kong is the other bright patch of lights. Image credit: Reid Wiswman.Disaster 3.
Hurricane Odile made landfall near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico on September 15, 2014, as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds. Odile was the strongest storm on record to hit Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, and killed five people and injured 135. Tens of thousands of homes, structures and vehicles were damaged or destroyed by Odile’s high winds and flooding rains, and total damage was estimated at $2.5 billion. This is a MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Odile off the coast of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, taken at approximately 2 pm EDT Sunday September 14, 2014. At the time, Odile was a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.Disaster 4.
Torrential rains in southwestern China on September 10 - 17 killed 50 and did $1.4 billion in damage. In this VIIRS satellite image from September 16, 2014, we see Typhoon Kalmaegi hitting southeast China at the same time as torrential rains from unrelated thunderstorms are causing this $1.4 billion flooding disaster in southwest China. Image credit: NOAA Visualization Lab.Disaster 5.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms September 27 - 30 did $1 billion in damage across the U.S. Southwest and Rockies. In this image, we see a squall line blowing into Phoenix, Arizona on September 27, 2014, shortly before it knocked out power to 70,000 customers. Image credit: Wunderphotographer coolwiththecool2
.OctoberDisaster 1. Tropical Cyclone Hudhud
powered ashore near Visakhapatnam in the Andhra Pradesh state of India on October 12 as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 135 mph. With damage estimated at $11 billion, Hudhud was by far the most expensive tropical cyclone in India's history, and their third most expensive weather-related natural disaster, according to EM-DAT
, the International Disaster Database. However, Hudhud also represents a success story. Due to aggressive efforts to evacuate vulnerable areas, the death toll from Hudhud was held to 68, far below the 9,843 people killed during the similar-strength October 28, 1999 Orissa Cyclone
which hit India's coast very close to where Hudhud hit. This MODIS satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Hudhud was taken at approximately 1 am EDT October 12, 2014, as the storm was making landfall near Visakhapatnam, India. At the time, Hudhud was a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.NovemberDisaster 1.
One of the worst hailstorms ever in Australia’s greater Brisbane metropolitan region hit in late November, injuring at least 12 people and causing $1.25 billion in damage. In this photo, a man surveys the damage to his home in Brisbane on November 28, 2014 following a storm which struck the area on November 27. Photo credit: PATRICK HAMILTON/AFP/Getty Images.
I'll be back with a new post after 11 am Friday, discussing the joint NOAA/NASA press release on whether or not 2014 was the warmest year on record.