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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Water

Mapped: Countries With the Highest Flood Risk

Recent floods in Pakistan have affected more than 33 million people. Where is the risk of flooding highest around the world?

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Risk of Flooding Mapped Around the World

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Devastating floods across Pakistan this summer have resulted in more than 1,400 lives lost and one-third of the country being under water.

This raises the question: which nations and their populations are the most vulnerable to the risk of flooding around the world?

Using data from a recent study published in Nature, this graphic maps flood risk around the world, highlighting the 1.81 billion people directly exposed to 1-in-100 year floods. The methodology takes into account potential risks from both inland and coastal flooding.

Asian Countries Most at Risk from Rising Water Levels

Not surprisingly, countries with considerable coastlines, river systems, and flatlands find themselves with high percentages of their population at risk.

The Netherlands and Bangladesh are the only two nations in the world to have more than half of their population at risk due to flooding, at 59% and 58%, respectively. Vietnam (46%), Egypt (41%), and Myanmar (40%) round out the rest of the top five nations.

Besides the Netherlands, only two other European nations are in the top 20 nations by percentage of population at risk, Austria (18th at 29%) and Albania (20th at 28%).

RankCountryFlood risk, by population exposed (%)Total population exposed
#1🇳🇱 Netherlands58.7%10,100,000
#2🇧🇩 Bangladesh57.5%94,424,000
#3🇻🇳 Vietnam46.0%45,504,000
#4🇪🇬 Egypt40.5%38,871,000
#5🇲🇲 Myanmar39.9%19,104,000
#6🇱🇦 Laos39.7%2,985,000
#7🇰🇭 Cambodia38.1%7,431,000
#8🇬🇾 Guyana37.9%276,000
#9🇸🇷 Suriname37.7%233,000
#10🇮🇶 Iraq36.8%16,350,000
#11🇹🇭 Thailand33.9%25,431,000
#12🇸🇸 South Sudan32.5%5,437,000
#13🇵🇰 Pakistan31.1%71,786,000
#14🇳🇵 Nepal29.4%11,993,000
#15🇨🇬 Republic of the Congo29.3%1,170,000
#16🇵🇭 Philippines29.0%30,483,000
#17🇯🇵 Japan28.7%36,060,000
#18🇦🇹 Austria27.8%2,437,000
#19🇮🇳 India27.7%389,816,000
#20🇦🇱 Albania27.6%771,000
#21🇨🇳 China27.5%394,826,000
#22🇹🇩 Chad27.4%4,547,000
#23🇮🇩 Indonesia27.0%75,696,000
#24🇭🇷 Croatia26.9%1,094,000
#25🇸🇰 Slovakia26.7%1,401,000

The Southeast Asia region alone makes up more than two-thirds of the global population exposed to flooding risk at 1.24 billion people.

China and India account for 395 million and 390 million people, respectively, with both nations at the top in terms of the absolute number of people at risk of rising water levels. The rest of the top five countries by total population at risk are Bangladesh (94 million people at risk), Indonesia (76 million people at risk), and Pakistan (72 million people at risk).

How Flooding is Already Affecting Countries Like Pakistan

While forecasted climate and natural disasters can often take years to manifest, flooding affected more than 100 million people in 2021. Recent summer floods in Pakistan have continued the trend in 2022.

With 31% of its population (72 million people) at risk of flooding, Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to floods.

In 2010, floods in Pakistan were estimated to have affected more than 18 million people. The recent floods, which started in June, are estimated to have affected more than 33 million people as more than one-third of the country is submerged underwater.

The Cost of Floods Today and in the Future

Although the rising human toll is by far the biggest concern that floods present, they also bring with them massive economic costs. Last year, droughts, floods, and storms caused economic losses totaling $224.2 billion worldwide, nearly doubling the 2001-2020 annual average of $117.8 billion.

A recent report forecasted that water risk (caused by droughts, floods, and storms) could eat up $5.6 trillion of global GDP by 2050, with floods projected to account for 36% of these direct losses.

As both human and economic losses caused by floods continue to mount, nations around the world will need to focus on preventative infrastructure and restorative solutions for ecosystems and communities already affected and most at risk of flooding.

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Demographics

Ranked: The 20 Countries With the Fastest Declining Populations

Population decline is a rising issue for many countries in Eastern Europe, as well as outliers like Japan and Cuba.

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Visualizing Population Decline by Country

Since the mid-1900s, the global population has followed a steep upwards trajectory.

While much of this growth has been concentrated in China and India, researchers expect the next wave of growth to occur in Africa. As of 2019, for example, the average woman in Niger is having over six children in her lifetime.

At the opposite end of this spectrum are a number of countries that appear to be shrinking from a population perspective. To shed some light on this somewhat surprising trend, we’ve visualized the top 20 countries by population decline.

The Top 20

The following table ranks countries by their rate of population decline, based on projected rate of change between 2020 and 2050 and using data from the United Nations.

RankCountryDecline 2020-2050
1🇧🇬 Bulgaria22.5%
2🇱🇹 Lithuania22.1%
3🇱🇻 Latvia21.6%
4🇺🇦 Ukraine19.5%
5🇷🇸 Serbia18.9%
6🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina18.2%
7🇭🇷 Croatia18.0%
8🇲🇩 Moldova16.7%
9🇯🇵 Japan16.3%
10🇦🇱 Albania15.8%
11🇷🇴 Romania15.5%
12🇬🇷 Greece13.4%
13🇪🇪 Estonia12.7%
14🇭🇺 Hungary12.3%
15🇵🇱 Poland12.0%
16🇬🇪 Georgia11.8%
17🇵🇹 Portugal10.9%
18🇲🇰 North Macedonia10.9%
19🇨🇺 Cuba10.3%
20🇮🇹 Italy10.1%

Many of these countries are located in or near Eastern Europe, for reasons we’ll discuss below.

The first issue is birth rates, which according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), have fallen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Across the region, the average number of children per woman fell from 2.1 in 1988 to 1.2 by 1998.

Birth rates have recovered slightly since then, but are not enough to offset deaths and emigration, which refers to citizens leaving their country to live elsewhere.

Eastern Europe saw several waves of emigration following the European Union’s (EU) border expansions in 2004 and 2007. The PIIE reports that by 2016, 6.3 million Eastern Europeans resided in other EU states.

The Outliers

There are two geographical outliers in this dataset which sit on either side of Europe.

Japan

The first is Japan, where birth rates have fallen continuously since 1970. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that the country’s overall population began to shrink.

By the numbers, the situation appears dire. In 2021, 811,604 babies were born in Japan, while 1.44 million people died. As a result of its low birth rates, the island nation also has the world’s highest average age at 49 years old.

The Japanese government has introduced various social programs to make having kids more appealing, but these don’t appear to be getting to the root of the problem. For deeper insight into Japan’s low birthrates, it’s worth reading this article by The Atlantic.

Cuba

The second country is Cuba, and it’s the only one not located within the Eastern Hemisphere. Cuba’s fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman is the lowest in the Latin American region. It can be compared to countries like Mexico (2.2), Paraguay (2.5), and Guatemala (3.0).

Cuba’s immigration is also incredibly low compared to its neighboring countries. According to the International Organization for Migration, immigrants account for just 0.1% of its total population.

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