Natural catastrophes resulted in 27,000 deaths and $380bn in economic losses during 2011, according to data compiled by Munich Re and analysed by the Worldwatch Institute.
The number of natural catastrophes was down 15% from 2010 but was above the annual average of 790 events between 2001 and 2010, and considerably above the annual average of 630 events between 1981 and 2010, Munich Re reports.
The report found that only 9% of natural disasters were geophysical events, which include the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but accounted for 62% of overall fatalities. Japan suffered 15,840 fatalities from the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
"The steady increase in losses from natural catastrophes around the world demonstrates the need for preventative measures to help the world's poorest and most vulnerable communities protect themselves," said Worldwatch president Robert Engelman.
"These communities often have little beyond their own wits and meagre resources to help them recover from a crop failure, the destruction of a home, or the tragic loss of a family's breadwinner."
The report analyses natural catastrophes by geographic location, type, deadliness and costliness. Most natural disasters in 2011 occurred in the Americas (290) and Asia (240), while fewer occurred in Europe (150), Africa (80), and Australia (60).
Some 37% of the weather-related natural catastrophes were caused by storms, 37% by floods, and 17% by climatological events such as heat waves, cold waves, wildfire and drought.
In 2011, 27,000 people died in sudden-onset natural catastrophes, 63% below the annual average of 73,000 fatalities between 1980 and 2010. These figures exclude slow-onset famine victims.
In contrast, in 2010, the deadliest year recorded in the 30-year period, 296,000 people died from natural catastrophes. The report found that 38% of all victims of such catastrophes died from weather-related events, the rest being caused by geophysical events.
The deadliest weather disasters are droughts followed by famines, particularly in Africa. From October 2010 to September 2011, a severe drought in the Horn of Africa caused widespread famine and large-scale migratory movements, particularly in Somalia and Kenya.
The monetary losses from 2011's natural catastrophes reached a record $380bn, surpassing the previous record of $220bn set in 2005.
The year's three costliest natural catastrophes were the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan (costing $210bn), the August-November floods in Thailand ($40bn), and the February earthquake in New Zealand ($16bn).
The report notes that Asia experienced 70%, or $265bn, of the total monetary losses from natural disasters around the world, up from an average share of 38% between 1980 and 2010.
This can be attributed to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as well as the devastating floods in Thailand.
Thailand's summer monsoons, probably influenced by a very intensive La Niña, created the costliest flooding to date at $40bn in losses.
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