(Data: Germanwatch/ Climate Risk Index. Maps: Rick Noack/ The Washington Post)

More than 530,000 people have died between 1994 and 2013 due to extreme weather, according to a new report by the NGO Germanwatch. By compiling a Climate Risk Index, the organization has combined average numbers of deaths and the value of financial losses over the last 20 years to rank the countries that have been most gravely affected by such incidents. In those two decades, about 15,000 extreme weather events have cost the world about $2.2. trillion, the report concludes.

Low- or lower-middle income developing countries accounted for nine out of the 10 worst-affected countries. The countries that have suffered most under extreme weather events in the past 20 years seem to be mostly located in southeast Asia and close to the Caribbean Sea.

Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti were ranked highest over the last 20 years, as the map above shows. In Myanmar and Honduras, most of the weather-related destruction and fatalities resulted from single events. In Myanmar, for instance, Cyclone Nargis in 2008 caused more than 95 percent of all damages within the last 20 years, while 80 percent of all damages and fatalities in Honduras were caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Other countries, such as the Philippines (ranked fifth) have been affected more continuously.

Other findings of the study raise some interesting questions. The United States, for example, was ranked 26th-most-affected country on the Climate Risk Index -- much higher than most African nations.


Trying to explain that rank, the authors write that they only took into account the direct impact of extreme weather, not its indirect consequences. This could explain why many African countries rank much lower than the United States.: Heat waves –- frequent and devastating in many African nations –- have much stronger indirect consequences than direct ones. They can cause food scarcity and droughts but are not included in the study's calculations. Furthermore, the authors only measured fatalities, not the number of affected people.

"The scoring does also not take into account important aspects such as sea-level rise, glacier melting or more acidic and warmer seas," the authors explain.

For that reason, many European countries rank quite high, while island nations seem to have been affected less, so far.


Most of the fatalities in Europe can be attributed to one single extreme weather event in 2003. In that year, a heat wave killed more than 70,000 people in European countries -- an event with a lasting impact on statistics.

The authors of the study note that European countries are often "hit by extreme events, but the losses and fatalities are usually relatively minor compared to the countries' population and economic power."