Good News: Global Mortality From Hurricane Storm Surges Is Decreasing

Hurricane storm surge – Image from a video by NOAA.

Despite climate alarmists saying deaths and damages from hurricanes are getting worse, the fact of the matter is that both are in decline. Here is our recent report from Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. showing a decrease in costs compared to global GDP.

A new study published in Environmental Research Letters shows that there has been a global decrease in fatalities from storm surge events. Improved forecasting methods, better early warning systems, effective evacuation schemes, as well as coastal protection, risk-zoning and land-use planning have contributed to the declining number of fatalities and declining mortality.

Figure 3. Event mortality 1900–2015 per world region. Continuous trend line for all events (n = 72); dotted trend line for events with at least 2000 fatalities (n = 17).


Abstract: Changes in society’s vulnerability to natural hazards are important to understand, as they determine current and future risks, and the need to improve protection. Very large impacts including high numbers of fatalities occur due to single storm surge flood events. Here, we report on impacts of global coastal storm surge events since the year 1900, based on a compilation of events and data on loss of life. We find that over the past, more than eight thousand people are killed and 1.5 million people are affected annually by storm surges. The occurrence of very substantial loss of life (>10 000 persons) from single events has however decreased over time. Moreover, there is a consistent decrease in event mortality, measured by the fraction of exposed people that are killed, for all global regions, except South East Asia. Average mortality for storm surges is slightly higher than for river floods, but lower than for flash floods. We also find that for the same coastal surge water level, mortality has decreased over time. This indicates that risk reduction efforts have been successful, but need to be continued with projected climate change, increased rates of sea-level rise and urbanisation in coastal zones. […]

Conclusions: These findings have important implications. They show that the fatality risk from storm surge hazards is considerable, with high numbers of casualties per event and per year. As a hydrological hazard it is only exceeded in terms of mortality by flash floods, but storm surges affect more people. Also, benefits of efforts put in forecasting, early warning, evacuation, as well as coastal protection, risk-zoning and land-use planning, and shelters are reflected in the declining number of fatalities and declining mortality. It remains to be evaluated whether measures that have been successful so far are also effective for projected increased rates of sea-level rise. Sea-level rise could contribute to more frequent events, higher flood depths and thus less effective protection. Other factors such as subsidence and population growth can affect potential loss of life (Maaskant et al 2009). This could imply that the current decrease fatalities and event mortality could slow down or even reverse. Therefore, continued investments in the reduction of the vulnerability of coastal regions will remain important, through forecasting, emergency and land use planning as well as physical protection, especially under changing environmental and socio-economic conditions.

We found that fatalities for storm surge events are not systematically collected, and from EM-DAT events had to be selected from two events types: storm surge/coastal flood and storm/cyclone. In general, there is a reporting bias towards more recent events, which is also a well-known reality for other natural hazard event types. Better systematic collection, classification and reporting of loss of life due to coastal storm surges is recommended, to supplement current practices for other hazard types. This will enable continued monitoring and reporting on storm surge impacts, and support decisions on risk reduction efforts around the world.


Full paper (open access)

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November 2, 2018 1:51 pm

True not only for hurricanes but every category of extreme weather event for the US as well as globally. See HREF=””>Deaths and Death Rates from Extreme Weather Events: 1900-2008

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Indur Goklany
November 2, 2018 6:20 pm

Somebody needs to tell Nancy Pelosi. She thinks extreme weather is getting worse. Gonna start up a House committee to look into the matter if she is the Speaker. No need, Nancy! Everything is under control.

Evan Jones
Reply to  Indur Goklany
November 3, 2018 9:30 am

Greetings. We met once several years ago. I have regarded your studies and approaches as on a par with that of Herman Kahn, and I don’t know any higher compliment I can pay than that.

November 2, 2018 2:21 pm

Storm surge fatalities have been reduced since the late 1960’s. It’s education and better forecasts

Watched and endured Michael just two weeks ago from about 50 miles east. One weather site had a great blog and I got to watch the actual storm surge at the worst site. We only had 30 mph wind here and no big deal.

Dunno what kinda satellite rig the stormchaser had when the surge hit, but it worked until his truck floated off the road at Mexico Beach. I want one like that!! It’s a hard video to find, but worth it. The website moved all the Michaeil stuff and did not organize all the posts.

The biggie is that folks have seen pics of previous surge and have listened. If you live in certain areas, you may not get a huge storm surge as we saw along the Miss coast with Katrina and southwest Lousiana with Rite and Ike and way back in 1957 with Audrey or 1969 with Camille. Some places right on the coast will get high winds, but people will not drown from the surge. I live just a half mile from the beach, but I am over 60 feet, so it would take an asteroid hitting the Gulf to flood me.

So I give a huge salute to NOAA and the Huricane Center. With just a day’s warning you can escape from the low population areas. Down in south Florida it is harder -millions versus a few hundred thousand.

Gums sends…

November 2, 2018 2:24 pm

The world has become richer and there are more resources available to cope with disasters. One metric is the number of people in extreme poverty. The absolute number (not just the percent of the population) of people in extreme poverty has fallen by a billion. link Why is that? It’s thanks to fossil fuels.

If you want more people in extreme poverty, end the use of fossil fuels. That would guarantee that lots more people would die in natural disasters.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
November 2, 2018 5:10 pm

“shows that there has been a global decrease in fatalities from storm surge events. Improved forecasting methods, better early warning systems, effective evacuation schemes, as well as coastal protection, risk-zoning and land-use planning have contributed to the declining number of fatalities and declining mortality.” — the same I presented under comments in the earlier article in this web. Also, I said human greed increased the risk.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

November 2, 2018 7:33 pm


How “special” was the recent slowdown?

Warmists and Alarmists are still fighting the idea, that there was a recent

slowdown. In order to show just how “special” the recent slowdown was, I

have created a new type of graph, which shows the warming rate plotted

against the date range which was used to calculate the warming rate.

That may sound confusing, but when you look at the graph, it will become

clear. The graph is based on very simple principles.

Louis Hunt
November 2, 2018 7:56 pm

“We also find that for the same coastal surge water level, mortality has decreased over time.”

Clearly, they didn’t apply the new Puerto Rico standard when they determined the number of deaths. That would require them to add everyone who dies within 6 months of a storm to the mortality total even if they take their own life. It’s too late to apply the standard to past storms, so we can expect future mortality rates to accelerate due to the new standard… I mean, due to ever-worsening climate change.

November 3, 2018 1:22 am

More fake photography, yes.
That still image from a video from NOAA can be seen as either a wall of water higher than the signpost moving towards land, or a wall of spray as a wave hits a barrier and a line of plumes shoots upwards then falls down in much the same spot.
The video shows it was not the wall of water like a tsunami, but the wave splash.
The video is deceptive because a storm surge is described/defined by NOAA as “Storm surge is the abnormal rise in seawater level during a storm, measured as the height of the water above the normal predicted astronomical tide.”
The eye-catching feature of the still is the wave plume sent upwards by the barrier. This is not a storm surge, it is a spray feature that can happen any day there are waves, including in the absence of a storm surge. The video does not show a storm surge at all.
Those unused to photography could easily assume an alarm-generating conclusion, when there is none shown.
Why do alarmist people keep up a steady stream of ambiguity in images, like dark plumes from electricity station chimneys and coolers?
Because the end justifies the means, or because it is ok to shout “fire” in a crowded cinema? Cretins. Deceitful cretins on the payroll of your taxes. Geoff.

November 4, 2018 12:42 pm

Want a straightforward and (relatively!) inexpensive method to reduce storm surge damage around the world? Develop a *portable* system, potentially consisting of tubes filled with air and water (the air floats above the level of the sea, the water keeps the air portion of the tubes from getting pushed ashore too quickly) deployed offshore in the days before a storm.

U.S. damage due to storm surge averages about $40 billion per decade, and global storm surge damage averages about $100 billion per decade. An investment of less than what the U.S. loses in one decade to storm surge will likely be able to reduce storm surge amounts by more than 50 percent anywhere in the world. The return on investment (ROI) for the U.S. (let alone the world as a whole) would be spectacular.

November 4, 2018 6:42 pm

Imagine that, people adapt and overcome, similar to marines at Heartbreak Ridge.

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