Figure 12. The number of reported ex- treme climatic based disasters is increas- ing dramatically worldwide (IPCC, 2006). While part of this increase in the number of weather related disasters, as claimed by some, may be due to better reporting mechanisms and communication, similar increases in reports has not taken place in relation to other types of disasters like the number of reported earthquakes.
Much of the increase in the number of hazardous events reported is probably due to significant improvements in information access and also to population growth, but the number of floods and cyclones being reported is still rising compared to earthquakes. How, we must ask, is global warming affecting the frequency of natural hazards?
Figure 13. During a period between May 1994 to September 1995 the profile of Coconut Beach dramatically changed as a result of storm surges washing away the sand. A rising sea level in the future, combined with more storms, will wash away vulnerable beaches. With the sand gone, the coast is more vulnerable to waves going further inland, threatening fresh water wells with salinisation, lead- ing to land erosion, andmaking the areas less attractive for tourism. When a beach starts to deteriorate, the process can be amazingly quick. It is very likely that the 20th century warming has contributed significantly to the observed rise in glob- al average sea level and the increase in ocean heat content. Warming drives sea level rise through thermal expansion of seawater and widespread loss of land- based ice. Based on tide gauge records, after correcting for land movements, the average annual rise was between 1 and 2 mm during the 20th century.
1920 1940 1960
Changes to Coconut Beach (Dominica) after the 1995 hurricane season
Changes to C co ut Beach (Dominica) after the 1995 hurricane season
Source: Dominica National Communication to the UNFCCC 2001.