Report: Superstorm Sandy Second-Costliest Weather Event Since 1970

Only Katrina inflicted more economic damage. And climate-related disasters are on the rise worldwide.

Yes, still. Compared to the absolute destruction on many North Jersey beaches, where homes are still empty and entire blocks have been bulldozed, our South Jersey shores fared relatively well (and I say relatively because some people here lost everything). Still, climate change isn't going away, and neither are issues of flood zones and flood insurance, nor the debate of whether or not our barrier island beach towns will be here for the long haul, and what we can do to protect them (i.e. dunes — the Margate resistance to dunes should continue to be nasty). We'll hit the two-year anniversary in October, but expect this to be affecting policy for a long time. I still hear people talking about the Storm of '62. Sandy will be on our lips more than 50 years from now, too.

According to a new report published by the World Meteorological Organization, the $50 billion in economic damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy ranks second only to Hurricane Katrina’s nearly $147 billion among the costliest weather events since 1970. Storms in the U.S. took five of the top 10 slots (above), while the events with the most fatalities tended to occur in less-developed countries.

“Disasters caused by weather-, climate- and water-related hazards are on the rise worldwide,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in the report (PDF; see below). “Both industrialized and non-industrialized countries are bearing the burden of repeated floods, droughts, temperature extremes and storms. The escalating impact of disasters is due not only to their increasing frequency and severity but also to the growing vulnerability of human societies, especially those surviving on the margins of development.”

But these rankings are more than just idle list-making. Jarraud explains that there are both practical and big-picture applications for these studies:

“It can support practical measures to reduce potential impacts, such as investing in early warning systems, retrofitting critical infrastructure or enforcing new building codes. Information about past impacts can also be used to assess the resilience of a society.”

According to Prevention Web, the information hub for the disaster risk reduction community: “The report is published ahead of the First Session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) Meeting [yesterday and today] in Geneva, for the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to take place in March in Japan. You can follow PrepCom on Twitter:

[h/t Star-Ledger]

Full WMO report below: