Global climate reminds us it is one world afterall. NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center released the September temperatures. Separately, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature or the average land surface temperature proves September the second warmest on record, behind 2005. The former was 1.12 degrees F above the last century's average of 59.0 degrees F while the latter 1.75 degrees F above the last century's average of 53.6 degrees F. In addition, the global ocean surface temperature was tied for the fifth warmest on record for September. Most of the world’s land areas experienced higher-than-average temperatures. Notably, the greatest warming occurred across Canada and the northern and western contiguous United States. Warmer conditions also occurred in Europe, most of Asia, and Australia. 
Global surface temperature anomalies (degrees F) for the month of September 2009.
Global surface temperature anomalies in degrees F for September 2009. (Credit: NOAA) 

Typhoon Ketsana became 2009’s second-deadliest tropical cyclone to date, causing almost 500 deaths across the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. The storm hit the Philippines on September 26, flooding 80 percent of Manila. 

Earlier, back in 2005, a global view of disaster risks was presented for some major natural hazards such as floods, cyclones, drought, earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides in Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis. This report prepared by Columbia University et al. identified that "3.4 billion people, more than half the world's population, live in areas where at least one hazard could significantly impact them." The researchers categorized regions by their level of exposure (vulnerability) to multiple hazards. Vulnerability was estimated from hazard-specific mortality and economic loss rates for World Bank regions and country wealth classes, calculated from twenty years of historical loss data from the Emergency Events Database (EMDAT), developed by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Brussels. Their key findings include: 
  • Approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s land surface is exposed to at least one of the natural hazards evaluated. 
  • 160 countries have more than one quarter of their population in areas of high mortality risk from one or more hazards. 
  • More than 90 countries have more than 10 percent of their population in areas of high mortality risk from two or more hazards. 
  • In 35 countries, more than 1 in 20 residents lives at relatively high mortality risk from 3 or more hazards. 
  • Taiwan may be the place on Earth most vulnerable to natural hazards, with 73 percent of its land and population exposed to three or more hazards. 
  • More than 90 percent of the populations of Bangladesh, Nepal, the Dominican Republic, Burundi, Haiti, Taiwan, Malawi, El Salvador, and Honduras live in areas at high relative risk of death from two or more hazards. 
  • Poorer countries in the developing world are more likely to have difficulty absorbing repeated disaster-related losses and costs associated with disaster relief, recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. 

  • Credit: Columbia University

    Margaret Arnold, the program manager at the World Bank’s Hazard Management Unit and report co-author, said, “Central America, East and South Asia, and large areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East are at the greatest risk of loss from multiple hazards. Additionally, our analysis shows that in the last 20 years, developed countries have not faced relatively high mortality risk from hazards and related vulnerabilities, whereas industrial and lower-middle-income countries generally see larger economic losses.”  

    The report found "more than one-third of the United States’ population lives in hazard-prone areas, but only one percent of its land area ranks in the highest disaster-related mortality risk category;."  

    Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter, University of South Carolina, used a combination of geographical and epidemiological methods to study the spatial patterns of natural hazard mortality at the county-level for the U.S. from 1970–2004. Their paper, Spatial patterns of natural hazards mortality in the United States, appeared in the International Journal of Health Geographics in December 2008. Their findings include: (1) Chronic everyday hazards such as severe weather (summer and winter) and heat account for the majority of natural hazard fatalities. (2) The regions most prone to deaths from natural hazards are the South and intermountain west, but sub-regional county-level mortality patterns show more variability. (3) There is a distinct urban/rural component to the county patterns as well as a coastal trend. (4) Significant clusters of high mortality are in the lower Mississippi Valley, upper Great Plains, and Mountain West, with additional areas in west Texas, and the panhandle of Florida. (5) Significant clusters of low mortality are in the Midwest and urbanized Northeast.

    Hazard induced mortality by FEMA region 1970 – 2004
    . *SMRs use Year 2000 as Standard Population. Borden and Cutter International Journal of Health Geographics 2008 7:64   doi:10.1186/1476-072X-7-64

    Borden and Cutter emphasize the importance of examining natural hazard mortality through a geographic lens so as to better inform (a) the public living in such hazard prone areas and (b) local emergency practitioners who must plan for and respond to disasters in their community. The same holds for the report above, Natural Disaster Hotspots: A Global Risk Analysis.

    People need to communicate across organizations as well as individually for the purpose of disaster preparedness and prevention in high risk parts of our planet.