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Ten Deadliest Droughts

December 17, 2012

By Paul Homewood


Since 1988 the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) has been maintaining an Emergency Events Database EM-DAT. EM-DAT was created with the initial support of the WHO and the Belgian Government.

Their database offers a history of disasters of all types back to 1900.

One chart they produce shows the ten biggest drought disasters, in terms of the number of deaths.




We are constantly told that climate change is making droughts worse. Yet the most recent event is 1983, and the deadliest droughts were in the first half of the 20thC.


It is, of course, difficult to compare a drought in 1928 with one today.Humanitarian efforts, for instance, certainly save a lot of lives these days, that may not have been saved in earlier years. On the other hand though, populations were much smaller in those days, and the lack of proper disaster management systems may well have led to many deaths not being recorded.


Nevertheless, the list is a timely reminder that droughts and other climatological disasters have always been with us, and always will be.

  1. Steve permalink
    December 18, 2012 2:15 pm

    I have one of those weather almanacs that have a page for every day of the year. It gives the average max and min temperature for that day and the average weather. Surprisingly accurate – about 75%.
    Also it mentions any record temperatures, rainfall etc. It is compiled from records going back 150 years and guess what – most extreme events are from 50 or 100 years ago with a few even older. Looks like about 80% to me. Surprising but that is what the statistics show.

  2. Brian H permalink
    December 19, 2012 3:37 am

    Now do a correlation with temperature trends. Bet the pattern dating back to the start of the Holocene holds: Warm good, Cold bad.

  3. Brian H permalink
    December 19, 2012 3:39 am

    Another turnip on the truck speaks out …

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