EM-DAT, a database of disasters


Discussions on climate change always  come to the argument that natural disasters like flood, drought, heatwaves etc. are on the rise, due to (anthropogenic) climate change. It is often difficult to have correct numbers at hand, so the Belgian EM-DAT (the International Disaster Database, a work of the Université Catholique de Louvain, UCL)) is a tremendous help to deliver correct data. EM-DAT considers natural as well as technological disasters. The former are those that will be of interest here.

As the discussion on climate mostly considers the global impact, let us just look how floods, droughts, heat- and cold-waves have changed since 1960. The Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2013 begins its summary with: “In 2013, 330 natural triggered disasters were registered. This was both less than the average annual disaster frequency observed from 2013 to 2012 (388) and represented a decreased in associated human impacts of disasters which were, in 2013, at their lowest level since 16 years.”

I added to fig.1 of this report the trend line (in red) which shows an average decrease of 5.3 occurrences per year since 2000.


Climatological disasters (extreme temperatures, drought and wildfires) went down from a percentage of 15.5 per year (2003-2012) to 10% in 2013.

I will continue these comments in the next days, time permitting. Meanwhile, go to this excellent website (http://www.emdat.be) and look for yourself at the trends under the “Disaster Trends” label.

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