natural disasters, worst natural disasters in America, u.s. extreme weather

“Death Map” Shows Impact of Natural Disasters

December 18, 2008 02:02 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
A study shows that, of all natural hazards, Americans are most likely to die from extreme heat. But would more data tell a different story?

Realities of Extreme Weather

According to a newly-published “death map” that analyzed data from 1970 to 2004, “Heat and drought caused 19.6 percent of total deaths from natural hazards,” while summer thunderstorms and winter weather each caused about 18 percent of deaths, reported Reuters.

The research was compiled by a group at the University of South Carolina, and revealed some surprising results: “Earthquakes, wildfires and hurricanes” resulted in fewer than five percent of hazard deaths combined. The researchers concluded that heat is the biggest threat to Americans

“What is noteworthy here is that over time … singular events such as hurricanes and earthquakes are responsible for relatively few deaths when compared to the more frequent, less catastrophic such as heat waves and severe weather,” the researchers wrote in a report for BioMed Central’s International Journal of Health Geographics.
But the study didn’t included data from the catastrophic 2005 hurricane season if it had, would results have differed greatly? According to NASA, there were 21 named storms in 2005, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Extreme weather has also made its mark in 2008. According to The Weather Channel, “The 2008 hurricane season was an all time record breaker; 5 of the 6 months of hurricane season had a major hurricane. The old record (2005) was a least one major hurricane in 4 months of hurricane season.”

Italy has also received a fair share of extreme weather in 2008, resulting in some of the most destructive weather conditions in decades. Rome and Venice experienced extreme flooding, leading to tragic deaths and bringing transportation to a halt.

Background: Extreme 2008 weather

In September 2008, Florida State University geography professor James Elsner and researchers Thomas Jagger and James Kossin completed a study suggesting that warmer ocean temperatures, possibly related to global warming, are contributing to stronger tropical cyclones. The research is somewhat controversial, however, because data on ocean storms from before 1970 is limited.

Reference: How to protect yourself


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