2019 marks the end of the warmest decade on record, reports the World Meteorological Association (WMO). The global mean temperature for the period January to October 2019 was 1.1 °C above pre-1850 conditions, and the WMO reports that 2019 is expected to be the second or third warmest year on record.
We’ve seen the evidence of that close to home last year – with Australia’s wild fires and unpredictable weather patterns causing floods in Southland and droughts in the Waikato.
Unsettling and extreme meteorological events are becoming more and more common. On April 22 of last year, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Luzon in the Philippines, killing at least 18 people and injuring over 250 others. It was a stark reminder of how quickly and arbitrarily an extreme event can occur, and damage so many lives.
With these types of catastrophic events on the rise, we thought we’d take a look at the natural disasters of 2019 and compile the top five most devastating events, worldwide.
Monsoon flooding in India
Insurance broker Aon compiles a list of natural disasters in their annual report, ranked in order of most expensive to least. Last year the fifth most expensive disaster was the monsoon flooding in India, which killed an estimated 1750 people. It cost an estimated US$10 billion, according to Aon.
There’s a monsoon season each year in India, but last year it was abnormal in that the monsoon rains surpassed the average annual rainfall, and became the most torrential downpour in India in 25 years.
The tally of deaths mainly came from people being killed by collapsing buildings and walls, according to Reuters.
Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi
Tropical Cyclone Idai was one of the worst on record to affect Africa and it caused a humanitarian crisis in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, killing 1303 and costing US$2.7 billion dollars.
Idai originated on March 4 and reached peak intensity after a five-day trek over land, on March 9 arriving in the Mozambique Channel.
Winds got up to a severe 195km/h and flooding occurred in Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, which was the cause of most of the deaths. An additional seven fatalities were caused by a cholera outbreak in the wake of the cyclone, as a humanitarian crisis unfolded, with hundreds of thousands of people in need of urgent assistance.
Flooding in China
From June to August last year, flooding in central and southern China caused $15 billion of damage, and killed 300 people. Over 11 million people were affected across 11 provinces, including Hunan, Sichuan and Guangxi, with the Hunan provincial capital of Changsha, one of the worst affected areas.
Typhoon Lekima in China, Philippines, and Japan
In August last year Typhoon Lekima caused $9.5 billion of damage to China, the Philippines and Japan, and resulted in 101 deaths.
Lekima, known as “Hanna” in the Philippines, exacerbated the southwest monsoon, which caused heavy rain across the country, and three boats to sink in Guimaras Straight, causing 31 deaths.
Heavy rains also caused flooding in Metro Manila and waves from Lekima displaced more than 1,300 people in Davao City. The agricultural damage in Central Luzon was US$1.55 million.
Hagibis typhoon in Japan
Japan was once again afflicted by another Typhoon in October 2019, which was the strongest typhoon in decades to strike Japan’s mainland. It caused widespread destruction from October 6 to October 13.
Evacuation orders were issued to more than 800,000 Japanese households and over 230,000 people took shelter in evacuation centres.
Three matches of the 2019 Rugby World Cup were cancelled due to the typhoon, and it was just as well as Hagibis caused 99 deaths and US$15 billion of damage. It was the most expensive weather event worldwide of the year, according to Aon.