The recent WMO report drew on EM-DAT to assess the impact of storms, droughts, floods, heat and cold waves, wildfires, and landslides from 1970 to 2019. It found that mortality from these types of disasters has fallen decade after decade, from over 50,000 deaths per year in the 1970s to fewer than 20,000 in the 2010s. At the same time, the number of reported disaster events rose sharply, a trend the WMO believes is partly due to climate change but also due to better reporting, says Cyrille Honoré, director of the WMO’s disaster risk reduction department.
Less reporting in the early part of the record—where several large droughts and storms in South Asia and Africa dominate the death toll—suggests that the actual drop in deaths over time from weather- and climate-related disasters might be even steeper.
A key reason for this trend, Honoré says, is the immense progress societies have made in developing early warning systems. Our ability to accurately forecast weather and climate hazards has “improved drastically,” he says, thanks to the proliferation of sophisticated satellite sensors and rapid advances in computer models.