Interactive: Natural Disasters Around the World Since 1900
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Interactive: Natural Disasters Around the World Since 1900

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Interactive: Natural Disasters Around the World Since 1900

While natural disasters are inevitable and commonplace within the context of human history, that doesn’t lessen our collective shock when they occur.

Here are just a few of the natural disasters that made headlines last year:

  • Haiti was rocked by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.
  • Super typhoon, Rai, killed 375 people in the Philippines. The storm brought winds as high as 120 mph (193 kph)
  • Landslides in China’s Henan province kill more than 300 people
  • Historic flooding results in more than 200 fatalities in Germany and Belgium
  • Hurricane Ida battered the Gulf Coast, killing 91 people across nine U.S. states

And these are just some of the many events that rounded out a long list of disasters in 2021.

The interactive dashboard above was created by Our World in Data, using data came from EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. The database aims to rationalize decision making for disaster preparedness and to provide an objective base for vulnerability assessment.

Total Deaths by Natural Disaster in the Last Decade (2010-2019)

In the past decade, approximately 60,000 people per year died from natural disasters. This represents 0.1% of total deaths worldwide.

The chart below breaks down the total deaths by type of natural disaster in the last decade.

Type of Natural DisasterTotal Deaths (2010-2019)
Earthquakes267,480
Extreme Temperatures74,244
Floods50,673
Storms27,632
Droughts20,120
Landslides10,109
Volcanic Activity1,363
Wildfires881
Mass Movement100
TOTAL452,602

Historically, droughts and floods were the most fatal natural disasters.

However, deaths from these events are relatively low now compared to earthquakes, which are by far the most deadly natural disaster in modern times. Over the past decade, earthquakes have killed 267,480 people worldwide, followed by extreme temperatures, which killed 74,244.

The Decline of Deaths from Natural Disasters

Is planet Earth really more dangerous than ever? Let’s take a look at what the data says:

natural disasters

The chart above shows a sharp decline in deaths from natural disasters over the last 100 years.

In the 1920s, the world averaged over 500,000 deaths from natural disasters per year. These were caused by several outlier events: for example, a Tokyo earthquake in 1923 killed over 146,000 people, and drought and famine killed 3 million people in China between 1928 and 1930.

In the 1930s, the number dropped below the 500,000 deaths per year average, but a number of events still put their thumb on the scale. In 1931, floods in China killed over 3.7 million people, and in 1935, an earthquake killed up to 60,000 people in Pakistan, and so on.

But luckily over time, the decadal average has dropped to fewer than 100,000 deaths per year. And if we consider the rate of population growth, then the decline over the past century has been even more dramatic.

Our awareness of natural disasters has increased dramatically along with global access to real-time information, and thankfully, these occurrences are less deadly than they once were.

How to Navigate this Interactive Visualization

how to use this viz

The dashboard above is packed with useful views and data. Some of the features to highlight are:

The Top Navigation
– Type of disaster: The options include: drought, earthquakes, floods, storms, volcanoes, extreme temperatures
– Impact: The impact of the natural disaster is measured in: deaths, injuries, affected, homeless, and more
– Timespan: The selection allows for average by decade and year
– Per capita: The impact is measured in per capita terms instead of total numbers

The Left Bar
– Filter the data by country and region
– Filter the data by type of disaster and related effects (e.g. deaths, economic impacts)

The Bottom Tabs
– Bar Chart: All data selected is displayed in a bar chart format
– Map: Data is shown by country in a heat map. Click “Play” at the bottom left to view data for different decades
– Table: The same data that is displayed in the visualization is shown in table format
– Sources: All the data sources and calculations are clearly displayed in this tab
– Download: This option allows downloading the image in PNG, SVG, and full data in CSV

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Misc

Iconic Infographic Map Compares the World’s Mountains and Rivers

This iconic infographic map is an early and ambitious attempt to compare the world’s tallest mountains and longest rivers.

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Today, highly detailed maps of our planet’s surface are just a click away.

In times past, however, access to information was much more limited. It wasn’t until the 1800s that comparison diagrams and maps became widely accessible, and people found new ways to learn about the world around them.

The image above, published by J.H. Colton in 1849, is believed to be the first edition of the iconic mountains and rivers infographic map. This comparison chart concept would see a number of iterations over the years as it appeared in Colton’s world atlases.

Inspiring a Classic Infographic Map

A seminal example of this style of infographic was produced by Alexander von Humboldt in 1805. The diagram below is packed with information and shows geographical features in a way that was extremely novel at the time.

Alexander von Humboldt mountain diagram

In 1817, the brothers William and Daniel Lizars produced the first comparative chart of the world’s mountains and rivers. Breaking up individual natural features into components for comparison was a very innovative approach at that time, and it was this early French language prototype that lead to the Colton’s versions we’re familiar with today.

Digging into the Details

As is obvious, even at first glance, there is a ton of detail packed into this infographic map.

Firstly, rivers are artificially straightened and neatly arranged in rows for easy comparison. Lakes, mountain ranges, and cities are all labeled along the way. This unique comparison brings cities like New Orleans and Cairo side by side.

detailed view of longest rivers visualization

Of course, this visualization was based on the best available data at the time. Today, the Nile is widely considered to be the world’s longest river, followed by the Amazon and Yangtze.

Over on the mountain side, there are more details to take in. The visualization includes volcanic activity, notes on vegetation, and even the altitude of selected cities and towns.

detailed view of tallest mountains visualization

Above are a few of South America’s high-altitude population centers, including La Paz, which is the highest-elevation capital city in the world.

In the legend, many of the mountains are simply named “peak”. While this generic labeling might seem like a throwback to a time when the world was still being explored, it’s worth noting that today’s second tallest mountain is still simply referred to as K2.

What details do you notice while exploring this iconic infographic map?

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Demographics

Mapped: A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

This map shows which counties in the U.S. have seen the most growth, and which places have seen their populations dwindle in the last 10 years.

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A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties

There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population changes.

If an area sees a high number of migrants, along with a strong birth rate and low death rate, then its population is bound to increase over time. On the flip side, if more people are leaving the area than coming in, and the region’s birth rate is low, then its population will likely decline.

Which areas in the United States are seeing the most growth, and which places are seeing their populations dwindle?

This map, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows a decade of population movement across U.S. counties, painting a detailed picture of U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020.

Counties With The Biggest Population Growth from 2010-2020

To calculate population estimates for each county, the U.S. Census Bureau does the following calculations:

A county’s base population → plus births → minus deaths → plus migration = new population estimate

 
From 2010 to 2020, Maricopa County in Arizona saw the highest increase in its population estimate. Over a decade, the county gained 753,898 residents. Below are the counties that saw the biggest increases in population:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenix, ScottsdaleArizona+753,898
#2Harris CountyHoustonTexas+630,711
#3Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+363,323
#4King CountySeattleWashington+335,884
#5Tarrant CountyFort Worth, ArlingtonTexas+305,180
#6Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+303,982
#7Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+287,626
#8Collin CountyPlanoTexas+284,967
#9Travis CountyAustinTexas+270,111
#10Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+264,446

Phoenix and surrounding areas grew faster than any other major city in the country. The region’s sunny climate and amenities are popular with retirees, but another draw is housing affordability. Families from more expensive markets—California in particular—are moving to the city in droves. This is a trend that spilled over into the pandemic era as more people moved into remote and hybrid work situations.

Texas counties saw a lot of growth as well, with five of the top 10 gainers located in the state of Texas. A big draw for Texas is its relatively affordable housing market. In 2021, average home prices in the state stood at $172,500$53,310 below the national average.

Counties With The Biggest Population Drops from 2010-2020

On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the top 10 counties that saw the biggest declines in their populations over the decade:

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2010–2020)
#1Cook CountyChicagoIllinois-90,693
#2Wayne CountyDetroitMichigan-74,224
#3Cuyahoga CountyClevelandOhio-50,220
#4Genesee CountyFlintMichigan-20,165
#5Suffolk CountyLong IslandNew York-20,064
#6Caddo ParishShreveportLouisiana-18,173
#7Westmoreland CountyMurrysvillePennsylvania-17,942
#8Hinds CountyJacksonMississippi-17,751
#9Kanawha CountyCharlestonWest Virginia-16,672
#10Cambria CountyJohnstownPennsylvania-14,786

The largest drops happened in counties along the Great Lakes, including Cook County (which includes the city of Chicago) and Wayne County (which includes the city of Detroit).

For many of these counties, particularly those in America’s “Rust Belt”, population drops over this period were a continuation of decades-long trends. Wayne County is an extreme example of this trend. From 1970 to 2020, the area lost one-third of its population.

U.S. Population Growth in Percentage Terms (2010-2020)

While the map above is great at showing where the greatest number of Americans migrated, it downplays big changes in counties with smaller populations.

For example, McKenzie County in North Dakota, with a 2020 population of just 15,242, was the fastest-growing U.S. county over the past decade. The county’s 138% increase was driven primarily by the Bakken oil boom in the area. High-growth counties in Texas also grew as new sources of energy were extracted in rural areas.

The nation’s counties are evenly divided between population increase and decline, and clear patterns emerge.

population changes in u.s. counties (%)

Pandemic Population Changes

More recent population changes reflect longer-term trends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the counties that saw the strongest population increases were located in high-growth states like Florida and Texas.

Below are the 20 counties that grew the most from 2020 to 2021.

RankCountyPoint of ReferenceStatePop. Growth (2020–2021)
#1Maricopa CountyPhoenixArizona+58,246
#2Collin CountyPlanoTexas+36,313
#3Riverside CountyRiverside, Palm SpringsCalifornia+35,631
#4Fort Bend CountySugar LandTexas+29,895
#5Williamson CountyGeorgetownTexas+27,760
#6Denton CountyDentonTexas+27,747
#7Polk CountyLakelandFlorida+24,287
#8Montgomery CountyThe WoodlandsTexas+23,948
#9Lee CountyFort MyersFlorida+23,297
#10Utah CountyProvoUtah+21,843
#11Pinal CountySan Tan ValleyArizona+19,974
#12Clark CountyLas VegasNevada+19,090
#13Pasco CountyNew Port RicheyFlorida+18,322
#14Wake CountyRaleighNorth Carolina+16,651
#15St. Johns CountySt. AugustineFlorida+15,550
#16Hillsborough CountyTampaFlorida+14,814
#17Bexar CountySan AntonioTexas+14,184
#18Ada CountyBoiseIdaho+13,947
#19Osceola CountyKissimmeeFlorida+12,427
#20St. Lucie CountyFort PierceFlorida+12,304

Many of these counties are located next to large cities, reflecting a shift to the suburbs and larger living spaces. However, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the pandemic housing boom tapers off due to rising interest rates, it remains to be seen whether the suburban shift will continue, or if people begin to migrate back to city centers.

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