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Natural Disasters in 2020: Are disasters occurring more frequently?

Natural disasters are occurring more frequently and impacting more communities than ever before. According to a recent FEMA report, over half of Americans report not having an adequate emergency plan – having emergency plans and the right supplies and emergency plans are more important than ever.


While certain areas of the world are more vulnerable to natural disasters than others, no country is exempt from natural disasters. The 21st century has already seen its fair share of deadly and extreme weather conditions. Below is snapshot from Wikipedia (excludes epidemics & famines):


From the Guardian, dated October 12, 2020:

The United Nations reports more than 7,000 extreme weather events recorded since 2000; Sharp rise in number of droughts, floods and wildfires has claimed 1.23 million lives and affected 4.2 billion people
Extreme weather events have increased dramatically in the past 20 years, taking a heavy human and economic toll worldwide, and are likely to wreak further havoc, the UN has said.
Heatwaves and droughts will pose the greatest threat in the next decade, as temperatures continue to rise due to heat-trapping gases, experts said.
China (577) and the US (467) recorded the highest number of disaster events from 2000 to 2019, followed by India (321), the Philippines (304) and Indonesia (278), the UN said in a report issued on Monday, the day before the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. Eight of the top 10 countries are in Asia.
Globally, 7,348 major disaster events were recorded, claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and causing $2.97tn (£2.3tn) in economic losses during the two-decade period.
Drought, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and extreme temperature fluctuations were among the events causing major damage.
“The good news is that more lives have been saved, but the bad news is that more people are being affected by the expanding climate emergency,” said Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction. She called for governments to invest in early warning systems and implement disaster risk reduction strategies.
Debarati Guha-Sapir of the centre for research on the epidemiology of disasters at the University of Louvain, Belgium, which provided data for the report, said: “If this level of growth in extreme weather events continues over the next 20 years, the future of mankind looks very bleak indeed.

Link to October 2020 UN Report


According to the July 2020 Global Catastrophe Recap Report and DownToEarth.org:

  • At least 207 natural disasters were recorded globally in the first six months of 2020 — this is above the 21st century average (2000-2019) of 185 disasters. The number of events exceeded average in all regions except the Americas.

  • There was an increase of at least 27 per cent in natural disasters recorded during the same time in 2019. Between January and June 2019, at least 163 natural disasters were recorded.

  • These disasters cost the world $75 billion. This is close to the average loss of $78 billion during 1980-2019. These numbers are preliminary and will change as losses continue to develop, according to the report.

  • At least $71 billion, over 95 per cent of the loss, was due to the weather-related disasters. In fact, around 92 per cent of these disasters between January and June were weather-related.


US News & World Report lists America’s worst natural disasters of the 2010’s decade as follows:

  1. Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, 2017

  2. California's Wildfires, 2015-2018

  3. Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, 2017

  4. Superstorm Sandy on East Coast, 2012

  5. Tornado Outbreak in South & East, 2011

  6. Hurricane Michael in Florida, 2018

  7. Floods from 'Bomb Cyclone' in Mississippi Valley, 2019

  8. Tornadoes in Oklahoma City's Metro Area, 2013

  9. Flood Fatigue in the Carolinas, 2016-2019

  10. Snowpocalypse in Southeast, 2014


In the year 2020 the United States had 16 natural disasters that each caused at least USD $1 billion in damage.


Regarding another report, dated October 9, 2020:


So far 2020 has been a standout year for all the wrong reasons, including its devastating natural disasters. Wildfires have ravaged the western U.S., and tropical cyclones have popped up left and right, with several causing significant damage to coastal areas. The latest storm, Hurricane Delta, is headed for the Gulf Coast.


HURRICANES in 2020


The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been a doozy, and it does not even officially end until November 30. Here are some of the records it has already achieved:

  • This is only the second time that the official alphabetical list of hurricane names has been used up, meaning forecasters have had to move to the supplementary list of Greek letter names.

  • If three more storms form, 2020 will tie 2005 as the season with the most named storms on record: 28. (Named storms are those that reach at least tropical storm strength, with winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour.) If four more form, this year will set a new record.

  • Twenty-two of the 25 storms that formed so far this season were the earliest of their storm number to do so. For example, Delta was the earliest 25th named storm of any season, beating out Tropical Storm Gamma, which formed on November 15, 2005.

  • If Hurricane Delta makes landfall as expected, it will be the first time 10 named storms have hit the U.S. in a single season.

  • A Delta landfall will also be the first time a Greek-alphabet-named hurricane has made landfall in the U.S.

  • September, which falls within the peak of the hurricane season, saw a record 10 named storms form within the month. (The previous record was eight.)

  • In mid-September, there were five storms churning around the Atlantic Ocean simultaneously for only the second time on record.

  • September 18 marked the second time on record that three named storms—Wilfred, Alpha and Beta—all formed on the same day. The only other time this was known to happen was on August 15, 1893, before hurricanes received official alphabetical names.

WILDFIRES in 2020


Wildfires have taken an enormous toll on western U.S. communities, both from flames and harmful smoke. California has borne the worst of it. Here are some of the records that have been set:

  • Fires have so far burned more than four million acres across California, about doubling the previous record of nearly two million acres set in 2018. Quality records of fires size in California go back to 1932.

  • The August Complex Fire alone burned more than one million acres, by far the largest in California’s history. The previous record of more than 459,000 acres was set in 2018 by the Mendocino Complex Fire.

  • Five of California’s six largest fires burned this year.

  • Colorado’s Pine Gulch Fire was the largest in state history, burning more than 139,000 acres.

RAIN AND FLOODING in 2020


Heavy rain sent water levels in the Tittabawassee River to record highs in May, causing the failures of the Edenville and Sanford dams near Midland, Mich. Some 10,000 residents had to evacuate because of the subsequent floods.


America is not alone – take Japan for instance, the world’s third largest economy. An average of 25 typhoons occur every year in Japan, typically from July to October. In July 2020, record-breaking heavy rains hit southern Japan, resulting in catastrophic flooding and landslides. Nearly 100 people died or were reported lost. Over 15,300 buildings were destroyed, damaged or flooded. More recently in September 2020, millions of Japanese were ordered to evacuate as Typhoon Haishen lashed the region.


Are disasters occurring more frequently?

Natural disasters across the world are unpredictable, vulnerability is compounding, and exposure is increasing. The following infographics highlight the growing need to be prepare for the unpredictable.

Annual Number of Natural Disaster Events Globally from 2000-2019
Number of Earthquakes Worldwide, with Magnitude 5+ from 2000 to 2019

The above narratives and illustrations beg many questions, including:

1. How prepared are individuals, communities, rescue agencies and governments?

2. What steps are people taking to anticipate the next disaster?

3. Why are over half of America’s families not prepared with emergency plans?


When it comes to scenarios of extreme weather events and earthquakes, the best action each individual can take is to be prepared.


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Any person equipped with R72 products will be an asset to those around them. The R72 products will also be invaluable assets to any local government unit, to rescuers, and to the civilian population.


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