Washington, July 15 : Natural disasters on a global scale are becoming more frequent, thanks to an onslaught of weather-related crises in the first half of this year, which might make 2008 the most disastrous year ever in regards to climatic catastrophes.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), the total number of disasters as of June 30, 2008 already exceeds the average number of disasters recorded at mid-year over the past decade.
Although 2008 is not on pace to eclipse 2007 as registering the most natural disasters ever, an especially active Atlantic hurricane season is expected.
During the first half of each year between 1998 and 2007, the average number of disasters recorded was 380.
So far in 2008, 400 disasters have been reported, according to data released last week by Munich Re, a German reinsurance group.
The data covers geological events, such as earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as weather-related disasters like storms, floods, and heat waves.
Based on the mid-year report, 2008 is following the steady rise in natural disasters that Munich Re has tracked since 1980.
The average number of disasters throughout the 1980s was 400. It increased to 630 in the 1990s and to 730 in the past ten years. The highest recorded number of natural disasters, 960, occurred in 2007, Munich Re reported.
So far this year, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and massive flooding have crippled the American Midwest.
An earthquake in China's Sichuan province killed more than 69,000 people and caused an estimated 20 billion dollars in damages. Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar killed at least 84,000 people and left at least 10 billion dollars in damages.
The majority of this year's disasters, 80 percent, are classified as severe thunderstorms, according to Munich Re.
While other years have experienced more costly disasters, both overall economic losses and insured losses are higher in 2008 than the average losses recorded in the first half of each of the past ten years.
This year's natural disasters have so far caused 50 billion dollars in economic losses and 13 billion dollars in insured losses, compared with 35 billion dollars and 9 billion dollars, respectively, over the past decade.
A high number of disasters occurred last year despite the fact that the Atlantic hurricane season was much milder than in recent years.
The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season has just begun and is expected to be more active than average.
If the predictions are correct, 2008 may unfortunately surpass 2007 to become the most disastrous year ever.
According to Torsten Jeworrek, a Munich Re board member, "The year is following the long-term trend towards more weather catastrophes, which is influenced by climate change."