Weather-related disasters have become more frequent and expensive over the last 50 years, according to a new report by the U.N.”s meteorological agency, but so far have killed fewer people than have historical disasters.

The World Meteorology Organisation (WMO) says its ‘Atlas’ is the most comprehensive assessment yet of mortality and economic losses caused by weather, water and climate extremes.

It examines about 11.000 disasters during 1979 to 2019, including major disasters, including Ethiopia’s 1983 drought, which was the deadliest single event with 300.000 deaths, and Hurricane Katrina in in 2005, which was the costliest, losing $163.61 billion.

The report found an accelerating trend: catastrophes virtually increased fivefold from the 1970s through the last decade, increasing evidence that extreme weather events are becoming more prevalent as a result of global warming.

The WMO attributed its increasing frequency, both to climate change and better disaster reporting.

Costs from the events also soared from $175.4 billion in the 1970 “s to $1.38 trillion in the 2010” s, as storms like Harvey, Maria, and Irma swept up the US.

The economic losses increase with exposure. Yet behind the sobering statistics lies a message of hope. Improved early warning systems that carry multiple risk have brought about a significant reduction in mortality.

But, while the dangers got more expensive and common, the number of yearly deaths has dropped from over 50.000 in the 1970s to about 18.000 in the 18,000 “s, suggesting that better planning is paying off.

Petteri Taalas

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Petteri Taalas is the Secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Appointed in 2015 by the World Meteorological Congress, (wikipedia)

World Meteorological Organization

The World Meteorological Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for promoting international cooperation on atmospheric science, climatology, hydrology and geophysics. (wikipedia)

United Nations

The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, (wikipedia)


Weather is the state of the atmosphere, describing for example the degree to which it is hot or cold, wet or dry, calm or stormy, clear or cloudy. On Earth, (wikipedia)