Countrywide climate features during recorded climate-related disasters

Tschumi, Elisabeth Andrea; Zscheischler, Jakob (2020). Countrywide climate features during recorded climate-related disasters. Climatic change, 158(3-4), pp. 593-609. Springer 10.1007/s10584-019-02556-w

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Climate-related disasters cause substantial disruptions to human societies. With climate change, many extreme weather and climate events are expected to become more severe and more frequent. The International Disaster Database (EM-DAT) records climate-related disasters associated with observed impacts such as affected people and economic damage on a country basis. Although disasters are classified into different meteorological categories, they are usually not linked to observed climate anomalies. Here, we investigate countrywide climate features associated with disasters that have occurred between 1950 and 2015 and have been classified as droughts, floods, heat waves, and cold waves using superposed epoch analysis. We find that disasters classified as heat waves are associated with significant countrywide increases in annual mean temperature of on average 0.13 ∘C and a significant decrease in annual precipitation of 3.2%. Drought disasters show positive temperature anomalies of 0.08 ∘C and a 4.8 % precipitation decrease. Disasters classified as droughts and heat waves are thus associated with significant annual countrywide anomalies in both temperature and precipitation. During years of flood disasters, precipitation is increased by 2.8 %. Cold wave disasters show no significant signal for either temperature or precipitation. We further find that climate anomalies tend to be larger in smaller countries, an expected behavior when computing countrywide averages. In addition, our results suggest that extreme weather disasters in developed countries are typically associated with larger climate anomalies compared to developing countries. This effect could be due to different levels of vulnerability, as a climate anomaly needs to be larger in a developed country to cause a societal disruption. Our analysis provides a first link between recorded climate-related disasters and observed climate data, which is an important step towards linking climate and impact communities and ultimately better constraining future disaster risk.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Climate and Environmental Physics
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)

UniBE Contributor:

Tschumi, Elisabeth Andrea, Zscheischler, Jakob


500 Science > 530 Physics






[4] Swiss National Science Foundation


[1295] New metrics for constraining multiple drivers of hazard and compound hazards Official URL




Jakob Zscheischler

Date Deposited:

25 Feb 2020 14:55

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:36

Publisher DOI:





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