Author: Denis McClean

Earth Day: 2020 saw a major rise in floods and storms

Source(s): United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Non-COVID disaster trends in 2020
Major floods and storms were over 20% above the annual average in 2020

While world attention remains focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing number of climate-related disasters continues to be a growing challenge for disaster management agencies, according to an analysis released today of non-COVID related disasters in 2020.

The  report 2020: The Non-COVID Year in Disasters states that more than 90% of 389 recorded events were climate related. The year saw steep rises in floods and storms compared to the annual average over the last twenty years.

These non-COVID-19 events resulted in 15,080 deaths, 98.4 million people affected and economic losses of at least US$171.3 billion, according to analysis of data in the emergency events database, EM-DAT, maintained by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the University of Louvain, Belgium.

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, said today: “The history books will remember 2020 for COVID-19 but it was also the 2nd warmest year on record.  The evidence continues to grow that climate-related disasters are intensifying and becoming more frequent, especially floods and storms. National disaster management agencies are being stretched to the limit by the exponential rise in extreme weather events.

“On Earth Day we should remind ourselves that these are not natural disasters. There is no vaccine against climate change so there needs to be greater investment in disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change especially for developing countries. Above all we need to see progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the safety and security of future generations. At current levels of global warming the safety of millions is being put in jeopardy year after year.”

Prof. Debarati -Guha-Sapir, CRED, commented: “It is deeply concerning that even in a year when the number of major droughts recorded was just nine, drought is having such a deep impact on millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, notably Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Shifting rainfall patterns put at risk 70% of global agriculture that is rain-fed and raises concern for 1.3 billion people who depend on degrading agricultural land. This can only lead to major unrest and societal problems if left unaddressed.

“Drought leaves a deep impact on severe malnutrition in most of these countries adding to the global hunger burden. It is a phenomenon which can be tackled with current technology and necessary political will.”


In 2020, there were 127 major storms, 26% more than the annual average of 102 and these events resulted in 1,742 deaths.

There were 201 major recorded floods, 23% more than the annual average of 163 and they resulted in 6,171 deaths, 18% more than the annual average of 5,233 deaths.

Summer heat waves in Europe were the deadliest events for the 2nd year in a row. Heatwaves in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UK caused a total of 6,340 deaths from an examination of non-COVID related excess mortality figures.

Asia experienced 41% of disaster events and 64% of total people affected. India (19.6 million) and China (14.9 million) suffered the largest human impacts from floods, storms, and other events. Indonesia had the highest number of disasters: 29 events including 25 floods.

Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan bore the brunt of floods in Africa, which affected seven million people.

The Americas suffered 53% of total economic losses which occurred largely in the USA and experienced the bulk of the year’s most costly climate-related disasters, including a record-breaking Atlantic Hurricane Season. 30 named storms included Hurricane Eta which killed 394 people and affected 7.1 million people in ten countries from Colombia to the USA.

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