The Most Destructive Environmental Disasters of the 2010s
In the last ten years, environmental awareness has shot up around the world. This likely stems from the increased frequency of large-scale environmental disasters.
These colossal weather systems have caused devastation around the globe, displacing an average of 21.5 million people a year between 2008 and 2015. In an effort to improve climate justice, take a look at the financial and human costs of the largest environmental catastrophes of the last ten years.
Port-au-Prince Earthquake, 2010
At the start of 2010, Haiti experienced a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The quake lasted somewhere between 35 to 60 seconds, which was enough time to destroy a devastating amount of property and lives. On January 12, roughly 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings suffered severe damage or were completely destroyed.
Canterbury Earthquake, 2010
In September 2010, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand, impacting the city of Christchurch the most. The initial earthquake caused significant damage and power outages in Christchurch, but the destruction was just beginning. Within a year, the area experienced over 11,000 recorded aftershocks.
Typhoon Megi, 2010
Typhoon Megi, or Super Typhoon Juan as it's called in the Philippines, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones on record. Megi killed 31 people and caused 255.1 million in damages, making it one of the most costly typhoons in the Philippines. But it wasn't done yet.
Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, 2011
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-9.1 magnitude undersea earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. It was the fourth largest earthquake in recorded history. It instantly triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached upwards of 130 feet in height. Residents of nearby Sendai had only eight to ten minutes to flee from the waves that traveled at 435mph.
Slave Lake Wildfire, 2011
The Slave Lake wildfire of May 2011 started as a small brush fire 9 miles away from town. Within three hours, the fire spread through 1,200 acres. The fire quickly evacuated all of Slave Lake's 7,000 residents. Before evacuation, one resident caught a glimpse of the flames and said, "it looked like hell."
East Africa Drought, 2011
Starting in July 2011 and running through mid-2012, a drought of epic proportions affected the entire East African region. Seasonal rains disappeared for roughly two years before the drought, leading to widespread loss of livestock, freshwater and crops.
Thailand Floods, 2011
Severe Tropical Storm Nock-ten made landfall in July of 2011 in northern and central Thailand, kicking off the annual monsoon season. The storm had a severe impact on northern and central Thailand, flooding both the Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers. By October, floodwaters had spread to the capital city of Bangkok.
Hurricane Irene, 2011
A well-defined Atlantic tropical wave brewed the disastrous Hurricane Irene in August, 2011. While it continued to gain steam, it made its way through St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. By the time it reached Virginia, it had developed into a Category 3 hurricane, peaking at 120 mph.
North American Derecho, 2012
In late June 2012, a disastrous derecho barreled across America. A derecho is a storm consisting of multiple severe, fast-moving thunderstorms, hurricane-force winds, tornadoes and flash floods. This particular derecho was one of the most destructive and deadliest in North American history.
Hurricane Sandy, 2012
Hurricane Sandy was the most destructive hurricane of 2012. In late October, the storm first touched down in Jamaica before growing stronger in the Caribbean Sea. It later tore through Cuba and the Bahamas, continuing to wreak havoc and grow in strength.
Western Plains Drought, 2012-2013
As a result of a record-breaking heatwave across the United States, the country experienced its worst drought in 2012 since 1988. The drought expanded throughout North America and affected parts of Mexico and Canada. It took until June 2013 for the eastern half of the United States to recover from the arid conditions.
Alberta Floods, 2013
Heavy rainfall in June 2013 caused the worst flooding in Alberta, Canada's history. Throughout Canada, a total of 32 states declared emergency zones with over 100,000 people displaced. Within 36 hours, almost half of some area's annual rainfall poured onto the ground.
Pakistan’s Earthquakes, 2013
On September 24, 2013, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck the Balochistan province of Pakistan. More than 825 people died from the initial quake and its many aftershocks. Many of the deaths were the result of poorly constructed homes and buildings easily collapsing from the tremors.
Typhoon Haiyan, 2013
Typhoon Haiyan is one of the deadliest typhoons to strike the Philippines, killing at least 6,300 people. In early November 2013, the storm reached a Category 5 level, with winds as strong as 195 mph. The storm also harmed parts of Micronesia, Vietnam, Taiwan and South China.
North American Polar Vortex, 2014
From January to April 2014 the American Northeast experienced a devastating North Polar Vortex. Record-low temperatures spread throughout the area as heavy snowfall closed schools, businesses and canceled thousands of flights. Many communities received warnings to stay inside as temperatures dropped as low as -37 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drought in California, 2014
California experienced the most intense drought in its history from 2011 to 2017. But 2014 was the driest California has been in 1,200 years. According to the State Water Project, February 2014 saw California's first shortage of state water supplies. By mid-May, the U.S. Drought Monitor analysis announced 100% of California was experiencing severe-level drought.
Typhoon Rammasun, 2014
Typhoon Rammasun was the first Category 5 super typhoon in the South China Sea since 1954. The storm caused devastation across the Philippines, South China and Vietnam in July 2014. This was a mere eight months after Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc on the Philippines.
Earthquake in Nepal, 2015
The Gorkha earthquake in April 2015 was the worst natural disaster to hit Nepal since 1934. The 7.8 magnitude quake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing 21 people. It was the deadliest day in the mountain's recorded history.
Texas Oklahoma Flood and Tornado Outbreak, 2015
After a week of heavy rain, a powerful storm system flooded parts of Texas and Oklahoma in May 2015. In addition to the record-breaking floods, many areas also experienced thunderstorms and tornado activity. 58 people perished as a result of the floods and tornadoes from the weather outbreak.
The Great Smog of Delhi, 2015
The Great Smog of Delhi was the worst level of air quality in Delhi in over 15 years. A combination of factors contributed to the toxic air quality, including garbage fires, burning of crops, and road dust. The smog lasted from November 1st to the 9th of 2015.
South Indian Floods, 2015
South India experienced one of the costliest natural disasters of 2015. From November 8th to December 14th, the region fell victim to massive flooding. More than 500 people were killed and almost 2 million people were displaced from their homes.
Bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, 2016
The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef system, resides off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Between 2016 and 2017, the reef experienced a mass bleaching, destroying 89% of its baby coral. Coral bleaching is a phenomenon that can result in widespread death of coral life.
Louisiana Flooding, 2016
A historic, unprecedented flood hit the southeast region of Louisiana in August 2016. Over the course of 10 days, 20 inches of rain fell in certain regions, overflowing the Amite and Comite rivers. Thousands of homes and businesses were submerged as a result of the excess rainfall.
Hurricane Harvey, 2017
Hurricane Harvey is tied with Hurricane Katrina for the title of the most expensive storm in American history, costing $125 billion in damages. The cost largely stems from flooding throughout Houston and Southeast Texas. Many regions in the area suffered through 40 inches of rain over the course of just 4 days.
Hurricane Irma, 2017
Hurricane Irma was the first Category 5 storm to develop in the 2017 season. The storm had winds as strong as 180mph before making landfall in Cuba and later touching down in Florida. It was the most intense hurricane to strike the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Hurricane Maria, 2017
In September 2017, the Category 5 Hurricane Maria followed Irma and caused widespread devastation in Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It is the worst environmental disaster to strike any of those regions and was the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record.
California Firestorm, 2018
The 2018 wildfire season in California was the deadliest and most destructive ever recorded. Over 8,500 wildfires burned almost 2 million acres of land throughout the year. Many experts attribute the increase in fires to climate change, and under-regulated power lines.
Japan Floods, 2018
An unprecedented surge of heavy rainfall lead to devastating floods in southwestern Japan in 2018. More than 8 million people evacuated their homes across 23 of Japan's prefectures. From late June to mid-July, it was the deadliest freshwater disaster in the country since 1982.
Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami, 2018
In September 2018, a large earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia. The 7.5 magnitude quake is one of many that struck the island nation during that period, but it was the tsunami that caused widespread devastation in Palu.
Extreme Heat Strikes Europe, 2019
A deadly, record-breaking heatwave took Europe by storm during the summer of 2019. All-time temperatures hit Germany, France, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. France hit an outrageous high of 113.2 degrees Fahrenheit, alerting the world that Europe was in serious danger.
Amazon rainforest wildfires, 2019
In the summer of 2019, an alarming surge of fires spread throughout the Amazon rainforest. Fires occur naturally during Brazil's dry season, but this year's fires were far worse. Many of the fires are believed to have been started deliberately.
Hurricane Dorian, 2019
Hurricane Dorian was a long-lived Category 5 storm that destroyed the northwestern part of the Bahamas. As Dorian ripped through the Bahamas as a Category 5, the storm slowed its speed dramatically, remaining almost stationary from September 1 to September 3.