January 9, 2014
Natural Disasters Were Rampant In 2013, Creating Widespread Chaos
Gerard LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Natural disasters were rampant in 2013, causing wide spread damage, chaos and impacting millions of lives. In a report from CBC News, German insurance company Munich Re, said that there were about 880 major natural disasters around the world in 2013.
According to the insurance company 20,000 people’s lives came to a tragic end, which was more than double that of 2012, and with an estimated cost of $125 billion dollars in damage -- both figures were still lower than the average for the past decade.
Summer hailstorms in Germany, floods in Central Europe and multiple severe storms in the United States were the costliest disasters of 2013.
“Floods and hailstorms caused double-digit billion-dollar losses in central Europe, and in the Philippines one of the strongest cyclones in history, Super Typhoon Haiyan, resulted in a human catastrophe with over 6,000 fatalities,” said Munich Re, as cited by Phys.org. The typhoon also caused $10 billion in damage as it surged across the Philippines.
Munich Re board member Ludger Arnoldussen said, “The destructive power of typhoons threatens coastal regions, islands and also inland regions throughout Southeast Asia. Based on a natural cycle, our analyses predict the beginning of a phase with higher typhoon activity for the coming years.”
In June, a mudslide in India took 5,500 lives, making the event the second deadliest disaster in 2013.
Tornadoes in the US plains caused around $3.1 billion and heavy rains in the Alberta province in Canada cost $5.7 billion.
In 2013, there were several major earthquakes around the world, record flooding in Colorado along with landslides, a California Rim Fire that burnt parts of Sierra Nevada and severe droughts in parts of the US. One of the most talked about hazards according to the article was the Florida sinkhole that swallowed up a home, killing one man who was sleeping inside. Other disasters that caused alerts were volcanic eruptions in Alaska and Hawaii, some of which are still spewing ash.
Numerous earthquakes also rocked the world in 2013. Some of the most intense of these events include: a 7.7 magnitude temblor in Pakistan in September; a 7.1 magnitude quake in the Philippines in October; 6.4 and 7.7 magnitude events in Iran last April; and in China, a 6.6 magnitude quake in April and an M5.9 tremor in July.
The largest deep earthquake ever recorded struck in May under the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean. It measured an 8.3 magnitude at 378 miles below the surface. No notable damage was caused but the vibrations were felt over a wide area, including Moscow, Russia, which was 5,000 miles west of the occurrence.
While some of the most potent temblors occurred over the rest of the world, the US also had its fair share of shaking. In January, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake was felt off the west coast of southeastern Alaska; in August, a 7.0 magnitude occurred in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska -- several other quakes were felt around the world within the same time period as the Aleutians' temblor; in March, a 4.7 magnitude quake rocked Arizona; and in May, a 5.7 magnitude event hit the Canyondam area.
Earthquakes weren't the only thing shaking the ground in 2013.
Other events detailed in the USGS report that rocked the earth include a fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, in April. It generated a 2.1 magnitude tremor that was felt in 36 different zip codes. The Chelyabinsk meteor explosion in Russia in February caused a shockwave that damaged over 4,000 buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people. Also a quarry blast in Chicago was felt in the west suburban area.
Some earthquakes may have been attributed to man-made activities in 2013.
Activities, such as underground wastewater disposal, known as injection-induced seismicity, may be the cause of earthquakes that have been going on in Oklahoma since 2009. The USGS and the Oklahoma Geological Survey are both studying the events to assess public safety and a possible link to the disposal of oil and gas production activities.
FLOODING, FIRES, DROUGHT
The flooding in central Europe was the costliest disaster, totaling $15.2 billion. In Germany, hailstones as big as tennis balls fell during one hailstorm that left $4.8 billion in damages to buildings, cars and solar installations in its wake.
The Colorado flooding last fall destroyed more than 1,500 homes and took lives. It also contaminated streams, reservoirs and ground water wells. The USGS provided data on river flow, water levels, sediment concentration and water quality, to help assess water pollution. The USGS is also providing the science for the reconstruction process to make the infrastructure able to withstand future floods as well as to providing awareness of possible future landslide locations.
The California Rim Fire, which sparked in August and was still smoldering through September, burnt more than 219,000 acres in 24 days. The USGS provided satellite images and maps to assist the firefighters in locating where the flames were and where they were going. In the aftermath of that fire, water quality and quantity remained a concern.
Ongoing dry conditions in 2013 also caused about 50 percent of the nation to experience some drought, with three percent experiencing exceptional drought. Areas like Texas and Kansas experienced dropping water levels and the Great Lakes, as well as other lakes, had experienced historically low water levels.
The Seffner, Florida sinkhole in February has caused a lot of concern regarding sinkholes in general. A man from Illinois fell into a sinkhole in March and parts of a resort near Disney World collapsed in August due to sinking earth. A sinkhole was reported in Kansas this past year, as well as in several other regions.
The USGS estimates 20 percent of the country is susceptible to sinkholes. They are providing maps that help predict where sinkholes will occur and the risks involved. The data will also provide a better understanding of their formation and behavior.
The USGS report follows another similar report that was released in August, ahead of National Preparedness Month, which lasts throughout the month of September. The USGS will also continue to update the public of future hazards throughout 2014, so citizens will be better informed and prepared for natural disasters.
Image Below: Flooding east of 63rd Street in Boulder, Colorado. Credit: Kit Fuller/USGS