Global mortality from storm surges is decreasing

LM Bouwer, Bas Jonkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Changes in society's vulnerability to natural hazards are important to understand, as they determine current and future risks, and the need to improve protection. Very large impacts including high numbers of fatalities occur due to single storm surge flood events. Here, we report on impacts of global coastal storm surge events since the year 1900, based on a compilation of events and data on loss of life. We find that over the past, more than eight thousand people are killed and 1.5 million people are affected annually by storm surges. The occurrence of very substantial loss of life (>10 000 persons) from single events has however decreased over time. Moreover, there is a consistent decrease in event mortality, measured by the fraction of exposed people that are killed, for all global regions, except South East Asia. Average mortality for storm surges is slightly higher than for river floods, but lower than for flash floods. We also find that for the same coastal surge water level, mortality has decreased over time. This indicates that risk reduction efforts have been successful, but need to be continued with projected climate change, increased rates of sea-level rise and urbanisation in coastal zones.
Original languageEnglish
Article number014008
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • loss of life
  • climate change
  • mortality
  • vulnerability
  • coast
  • storm surge

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