With the earth getting steadily hotter due to global warming, the release today of a US “death map” ~ clearly showing that heat is the country’s biggest natural-disaster killer ~ took on an even more serious tone.
Researchers now say people are more likely to die of heat than by earthquake, thunderstorms or hurricanes. Heat and drought caused 19.6 percent of total deaths from natural hazards, with summer thunderstorms causing 18.8 percent and winter weather causing 18.1 percent, the team at the University of South Carolina found.
Contrary to Popular Opinion
Earthquakes, wildfires and hurricanes combined were responsible for fewer than 5 percent of all hazard deaths, according to News Daily.
Writing in BioMed Central's International Journal of Health Geographics, they said they hoped to dispel some myths about what the biggest threats to life and limb are.
"According to our results, the answer is heat," Susan Cutter and Kevin Borden of the University of South Carolina wrote in their report, which gathered data from 1970 to 2004. "I think what most people would think, if you say what is the major cause of death and destruction, they would say hurricanes and earthquakes and flooding. They wouldn't say heat."
More Publicized Hazards Have Fewer Deaths
"What is noteworthy here is that over time, highly destructive, highly publicized, often-catastrophic singular events such as hurricanes and earthquakes are responsible for relatively few deaths when compared to the more frequent, less catastrophic such as heat waves and severe weather," they wrote.
The most dangerous places to live are much of the South, because of the heat risk, the hurricane coasts and the Great Plains states with their severe weather, Cutter said.
The south central United States is also a dangerous area, with floods and tornadoes.
California is relatively safe, they found. "It illustrates the impact of better building codes in seismically prone areas because the fatalities in earthquakes have gone down from 1900 because things don't collapse on people any more," Cutter said.
Click here for the complete News Daily article and map.