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Disaster damage: 2021 6th year with loss over $100 billion


India witnessed two climate events in 2021 which caused financial losses worth more than $1 billion each, apart from the loss of lives.


GS-III: Disaster and Management (Natural and Anthropogenic Disasters, Disaster Management in India), GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of increased disasters
  2. CEEW Study on Extreme Weather Events in India
  3. Climate Change as a reason for increased Extreme Weather events
  4. Other Causes of Extreme Weather Events

Highlights of increased disasters

  • According to a recent report, 10 climate-related disaster events cost $170.3 billion (conversion) in damages in 2021.
  • The loss threshold of $100 billion has been crossed for the fourth time in the last five years – and this is the 6th such year.
  • Another report identified 15 of the most destructive climate disasters of 2021, including 10 that each caused $1.5 billion or more in losses.
  • The top 10 most expensive events were the Texas winter storm, Australian floods, French cold wave, Cyclone Tauktae, Cyclone Yaas, European floods, Henan floods, Typhoon In-fa, Hurricane Ida and British Columbia floods.
  • The most expensive weather disaster of 2021 was Hurricane Ida, which struck the United States in August and early September 2021. The floods in Europe came second at $43 billion, according to the report.
  • Four of the 10 costliest events took place in Asia, with floods and typhoons costing a combined $24 billion. But the impact of extreme weather was felt all over the world.

Drought-type events

  1. Other extreme weather events were Parana river drought (Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil), Lake Chad crisis (Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon), Pacific Northwest heatwave (US, Canada) and East Africa drought (Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia).
  2. East Africa continues to be ravaged by drought – the region was hit by an 18-month drought caused by El Niño and higher temperatures linked to climate change. Now, the drought situation has turned catastrophic, causing crops to fail and cattle to die. In addition, the lack of clean water increases the threat of cholera and other diseases.
  3. The report also highlighted slow-developing crises such as the drought in the Chad Basin that has seen Lake Chad shrink by 90% since the 1970s and threatens the lives and livelihoods of more than 17 million people in the region.
  4. The drought in Parana river in Latin America pushed the water levels of the river to its lowest in 77 years and impacted lives and livelihoods in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

CEEW Study on Extreme Weather Events in India

  • A Study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) found that in the last 50 years, the frequency of flood events increased almost eight times.
  • Over 75 per cent districts in India, home to more than 63.8 crore people, are hotspots of extreme climate events such as cyclones, floods, droughts, heat and cold waves.
  • Events associated with floods such as landslides, heavy rainfall, hailstorms, thunderstorms, and cloudbursts increased by over 20 times.
  • The frequency, intensity, and unpredictability of these extreme events have risen in recent decades – while India witnessed 250 extreme climate events in 35 years between 1970 and 2005, it recorded 310 such weather events in only 15 years since then.
  • The frequency of floods surged significantly in the last two decades, it was found. – In 2019 alone, India witnessed 16 extreme flood events, which affected 151 districts. The study found that over 9.7 crore people are currently exposed to extreme floods in India.
  • Six of India’s eight most flood-prone districts in the last decade—Barpeta, Darrang, Dhemaji, Goalpara, Golaghat, Sivasagar—are in Assam.
  • India is already the fifth most vulnerable country globally in terms of extreme climate events, and it is all set to become the world’s flood capital.
  • The CEEW analysis indicates that while the number of rainy days during monsoon have decreased, single-day extreme rainfall events are increasing, leading to flooding.
  • According to the study, the yearly average of drought-affected districts increased 13 times after 2005.
  • The study also found a shift in the pattern of extreme climate events, such as flood-prone areas becoming drought-prone and vice-versa, in over 40 per cent of Indian districts.

Climate Change as a reason for increased Extreme Weather events

  • The world temperature has increased quite high from the past few decades and even keeps on changing year after year.
  • One of the big reasons for the increase in Earth’s temperature is the level of CO2.
  • As the CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere, the temperature of the earth is also increasing simultaneously.
  • As the world temperature is increasing due to global warming simultaneously the effects of it are also increasing.
  • Global warming is contributing to intensifying heatwaves.
  • Global warming also boosts the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere which may lead to causes of severe weather like heavy rainfall, heavy snowstorm, etc.


Other Causes of Extreme Weather Events

  1. Extreme Temperature: The temperature of the Earth is rising every year and increasing temperature and extreme sunshine on top of it creates a low-pressure system – due to this the hurricanes and other tropical storms get their way to start.
  2. High Atmospheric Winds: The jet streams found where the cold air from Earth’s poles meets with warm tropical air help to continue and control the weather system from west to east in the northern hemisphere and from east to west in the southern hemisphere. Sometimes these winds bring unpleasant weather with them which may lead to the formation of a tornado.
  3. Meeting of Pressure systems: When too cold high-pressure systems meet with too warm low-pressure systems, the chances of extremely high waves on sea surface increases.
  4. Improper Weather Systems: The weather systems (such as air masses, fronts, etc.) keep on moving in a proper way which helps to maintain the weather conditions in a smoother way. When the weather conditions come across any disturbance in between, it creates disasters.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

December 2023