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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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Maps

Mapped: The World’s Wettest and Driest Countries

From tropical rainforests to the sandy deserts of North Africa, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

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A cropped map of the wettest and driest countries in the world along with their average annual precipitation in millimeters.

Where are the World’s Wettest and Driest Countries?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

From tropical rainforest nations to the sandy deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

We map and rank the countries that receive the highest and lowest average annual precipitation in millimeters, per latest data from the World Bank.

Ranked: Top 10 Wettest Countries

Colombia tops the list of nations with the highest average precipitation at 3,240 millimeters (128 inches) in a year.

Its Tutunendo district is the one of the world’s wettest places, averaging nearly 12,000 mm (463 inches) of rain annually.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Colombia3,240
2Sao Tome & Principe3,200
3Papua New Guinea3,142
4Solomon Islands3,028
5Panama2,928
6Costa Rica2,926
7Samoa2,880
8Malaysia2,875
9Brunei2,722
10Indonesia2,702

Note: Figures are rounded.

Off the coast of Africa however, Sao Tome & Principe is not far behind Colombia, receiving about 3,200 mm of rain in 2020.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands also average more than 3,000 mm of rain in a year, and Panama (2,928 mm) rounds out the top five.

Noticeably, all 10 countries lie in close proximity to the equator, and near oceans, where rising hot and humid air leads to abundant rainfall.

Ranked: Top 10 Driest Countries

On the other end of the scale, Egypt records the lowest average annual rainfall across all countries, at 18 mm (0.7 inches). For comparison, Colombia receives nearly 180x the amount of rain Egypt does.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Egypt18
2Libya56
3Saudi Arabia59
4Qatar74
5UAE78
6Bahrain83
7Algeria89
8Mauritania92
9Jordan111
10Kuwait121

Note: Figures are rounded.

In fact, countries from North Africa and the Middle East make up the entirety of this list of the driest countries in the world.

Learn More About Rainfall From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Mapping the Unequal Distribution of Global Precipitation which divides the world into two halves: one that receives more than global average of rain (or snow), and one that receives less.

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