Droughts and Heat Waves

Drought

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), during the five-week period ending January 6, 2015, contiguous U.S. drought coverage decreased to 28.10 percent, the nation’s lowest since December 20, 2011. During December 2014, heavy precipitation across the southern and eastern United States brought significant reductions in abnormal dryness (D0) and moderate to severe drought (D1 and D2). Improvement was especially dramatic during the three-week period from December 16, 2014 to January 6, with drought coverage dropping from 32 percent to 10 percent in Louisiana; 29 percent to 5 percent in Mississippi; and 35 percent to 3 percent in Alabama. During the five-week period ending on January 6, 2015, coverage of abnormal dryness fell from 93 percent to 0 percent in Connecticut and from 99 percent to 0 percent in Rhode Island.

Drought still covers a substantial portion of the southern Plains and the western U.S. On January 6, the highest level of drought—D4, or exceptional drought—was noted in portions of California (32 percent), Nevada (12 percent), Oklahoma (6 percent), and Texas (2 percent). California also led the nation with 78 percent coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4). However, California’s drought condition improved following multiple storms, from early December, when 55 percent of the state was in exceptional drought (D4).  However, there are still ongoing drought concerns in California (and neighboring states).

Heat Waves

According to the National Weather Service heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses.

 

NATURAL DISASTER LOSSES IN THE UNITED STATES, 2014

Source: © 2015 Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE. As of January 2015.

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GLOBAL CATASTROPHES, 2013

  Number of incidents Deaths Insured loss ($ millions)
Floods 53 8,633 $9,137
Storms 60 8,344 20,819
Earthquakes 12 1,095 45
Drought, bush fires, heat waves 8 1,335 609
Cold, frost 5 727 139
Hail 8 NA 6,164
Other natural catastrophes 4 67 134
Total natural catastrophes 150 20,201 $37,047
Man-made disasters 158 5,702 $7,870
All natural catatrophes (1) 308 25,903 $44,917

(1) Based on events classified by Swiss Re as a catastrophe. The threshold is $19.3 million in insured losses for maritime disasters, $38.6 million for aviation disasters and $48.0 million for other losses or $96 million in total economic losses; or at least 20 dead or missing, 50 injured or 2,000 made homeless.

NA=Data not available.

Source: Swiss Re, sigma, 1/2014.

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THE TEN DEADLIEST WORLD CATASTROPHES, 1970-2013

Rank Date Country Event Victims (1)
1 Nov. 14, 1970 Bangladesh, Bay of Bengal Storm and flood catastrophe 300,000
2 Jul. 28, 1976 China Earthquake (Mw 7.5) 255,000
3 Jan. 12, 2010 Haiti Earthquake (Mw 7.0) 222,570
4 Dec. 26, 2004 Indonesia, Thailand et al. Earthquake (Mw 9), tsunami in Indian Ocean 220,000
5 May 2, 2008 Myanmar (Burma), Bay of Bengal Tropical cyclone Nargis, Irrawaddy Delta flooded 138,300
6 Apr. 29, 1991 Bangladesh Tropical cyclone Gorky 138,000
7 May 12, 2008 China Earthquake (Mw 7.9) in Sichuan, aftershocks 87,449
8 Oct. 8, 2005 Pakistan, India, Afghanistan Earthquake (Mw 7.6), aftershocks, landslides 73,300
9 May 31, 1970 Peru Earthquake (M 7.7), rock slides 66,000
10 Jun. 15, 2010 Russia Heat wave in Russia 55,630

(1) Dead and missing.

Source: Swiss Re, sigma, No. 1/2014.

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