From earthquakes that demolish cities, to cyclones that cause flooding and property damage, to the new normal of "wildfire season" and other extreme weather events, natural disasters around the world are making their mark on 2019. The worst natural disasters of 2019 leave destroyed property and loss of life that will echo through the years to come.
Raging wildfires, deluges of rain that cause catastrophic flooding, and the violent tremors of the Earth itself cause high death tolls and property damage that leaves civilians devastated. Historically, some natural disasters have almost ended the world, but even if the world goes on, these events inevitably cause political, social, and economic turmoil, amplifying the tragedy and creating a climate vulnerable to more loss.
It's important to keep an eye on the worst natural disasters of 2019 and not only consider the important environmental issues affecting the world, but also find ways we can help. Ensuring we have a positive impact on the environment and supporting those who have survived some of the worst the weather throws at us can help create a better future.
The crew from Fire and Rescue NSW Station 509 Wyoming recorded this video showing the moment their truck was overrun by the bushfire burning South of Nowra. The crew was forced to shelter in their truck as the fire front passed through. #NSWFires #ProtectTheIrreplaceable pic.twitter.com/Hb0yVrefi9— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) December 31, 2019
Areas Affected: Brushfires have swept across most states in Australia, burning more hectares of land than the 2018 California fires and the 2019 Amazon fires combined. Most of the casualties have occurred in New South Wales.
Cause: Since September, several factors have combined to make this fire season particularly damaging to the country. Strong winds, record-breaking temperatures, months of drought, and even the circulation of the Indian Ocean have all played a part. Though Australia's weather is known for its volatility, meteorologists note that climate change is exacerbating the intensity of these fires.
In 2018, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s State of the Climate report declared, “Australia’s climate has warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius since 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.” According to BBC, Australia broke its all-time maximum temperature record twice in December - first on December 17 (40.9 C) and then the very next day (41.9 C).
Damages: More than 11.3 million acres have been scorched, and more than 900 homes destroyed.
Deaths: At least 12 people, and 480 million animals.
Areas Affected: White Island, New Zealand
Cause: White Island is described as "New Zealand's most active volcano." GeoNet, which provides geological information for the country, has reported "volcanic unrest" occurring at the island since October - raising the likelihood of eruption. Its last "short-lived eruption" occurred in April 2016.
Damages: The Washington Post describes White Island as "uninhabited but frequented by tourists." As such, no major structures were destroyed, but more than 30 people were hospitalized following the blast.
Deaths: At least 5, with 8 missing and presumed deceased as of December 9
Areas Affected: Northern Bahamas, Florida, US East Coast, Canada
Cause: Hurricane Dorian is a result of a low-pressure system that became a level 5 storm.
Damages: Though much of the US east coast and Canada suffered power outages and flooding, the Northern Bahamas is looking at nearly $3 million in damages because "Buildings were destroyed, roofs were torn off, trees were felled, streets and homes were flooded, and cars, boats, and debris were strewn everywhere," according to AIR Worldwide’s report.
Deaths: 56 with nearly 600 missing as of September 28.
Areas Affected: Oklahoma and surrounding areas including Arkansas, Ohio, and Indiana
Cause: A week of heavy rains have saturated the ground, especially in areas along the Arkansas River. Part of the larger severe weather system that is partially the result of an amplified jet stream that promises a particularly hard tornado season in an area already devestated.
Damages: The final account of damages is compounded by tornadoes descending on the area. Property and homes along the Arkansas river prepared for record-breaking levels that are expected to possibly overwhelm the levees, causing even more damage. Highways have been submerged and an untold number of homes have been lost.
Deaths: At least 6.