Extreme Weather Inflicting Higher Costs but Fewer Deaths, Report Finds

Flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas, August 31, 2017.

Flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in southeast Texas, August 31, 2017. Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez / Air National Guard

The last decade saw weather grow more extreme, with cyclones, floods, and fires incurring greater costs. But thanks to improved early warning systems, deaths from extreme weather fell, a new report finds.

Climate changed accelerated between the years 2011 and 2020, with rising temperatures fueling more extreme weather, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Of the five costliest-ever weather disasters, four fell within the last decade, all of them hurricanes that hit the U.S.

Across the globe, cyclones proved to be the costliest weather disasters, while heat waves were the deadliest, the report found. “Numerous studies show that, in particular, the risk of intense heat has significantly increased in the past decade,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “More countries reported record high temperatures than in any other decade.”

Despite the rising risk of severe heat, the previous decade was the first since since 1950 without a single weather event that saw 10,000 or more deaths. The report attributes the decline in deaths to recent advances in weather forecasting that have made it possible to warn against impending disasters.

Not everyone has benefited equally from these advances, however. Across much of Africa, weather stations remain scarce and early warning systems deeply deficient, leading to needlessly high death tolls from extreme weather.


Without Warning: A Lack of Weather Stations Is Costing African Lives