Socioeconomic vulnerabilities and impacts associated with weather and climate hazards in the United States are assessed. Trends in deaths and economic losses resulting from tornadoes, tropical storms and hurricanes, and floods (including flash floods) are presented in detail. To the extent possible, death statistics are normalized by the population at risk, and loss data are adjusted for inflation. The results suggest a significant decline in deaths attributed to tornadoes and hurricanes at the same time that property damages have increased. In contrast, both deaths and losses due to floods have increased substantially in the past few decades.
A qualitative assessment is made of the effects of socioeconomic trends (e.g., the aging population) on the nation's sensitivity to atmospheric hazards and on the need for better information about these hazards. While the tally shows mixed impacts on vulnerability (i.e., some trends may reduce vulnerability while others increase it), the impact on information needs is nearly uniformly greater. More emphasis should be given to the following activities as ways to decrease the overall social burden of atmospheric hazards: 1) improve the use of weather and climate information by emergency managers, 2) develop better impact-assessment methods, and 3) explore new ways to reduce future property losses.
1 Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309.
2 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Research Laboratories, Boulder, CO 80303.
3 Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309.