The human cost of global warming: Deadly landslides and their triggers (1995-2014)





Haque, U., P.F. da Silva, G. Devoli, J Pilz, B. Zhao, A. Khaloua, W. Wilopo, P. Andersen, L. Ping, J. Lee, T. Yamamoto, D. Keellings, J. Wu, & G.E. Glass. 2019. The human cost of global warming: Deadly landslides and their triggers (1995-2014). Science of the Total Environment 682:673-684. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.415.

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Worldwide, landslides incur catastrophic and significant economic and human losses. Previous studies have characterized the patterns in landslides’ fatalities, from all kinds of triggering causes, at a continental or global scale, but they were based on data from periods of <10 years. The research herein presented hypothesizes that climate change associated with extreme rainfall and population distribution is contributing to a higher number of deadly landslides worldwide. This study maps and identified deadly landslides in 128 countries and it encompasses their role, for a 20 years’ period from January/1995 to December/2014, considered representative for establishing a relationship between landslides and their meteorological triggers. A database of georeferenced landslides, their date, and casualties’ information, duly validated, was implemented. A hot spot analysis for the daily record of landslide locations was performed, as well as a percentile-based approach to evaluate the trend of extreme rainfall events for each occurrence. The relationship between casualty, population distribution, and rainfall was also evaluated. For 20 years, 3876 landslides caused a total of 163,658 deaths and 11,689 injuries globally. They occurred most frequently between June and December in the Northern Hemisphere, and between December and February in the Southern Hemisphere. A significant global rise in the number of deadly landslides and hotspots across the studied period was observed. Analysis of daily rainfall confirmed that more than half of the events were in areas exposed to the risk of extreme rainfall. The relationships established between extreme rainfall, population distribution, seasonality, and landslides provide a useful basis for efforts to model the adverse impacts of extreme rainfall due to climate change and human activities and thus contribute towards a more resilient society.