Energy & Environment

More of earth’s population at risk of flooding, research shows


More of the global population is at risk for flood exposure than previously predicted by scientists, according to new research published Wednesday. 

The percentage of the global population exposed to flood risks has significantly increased over the past 20 years, according to the study. 

The research, led by scientists at global flood tracking and analytics firm Cloud to Street, was published in the British scientific journal Nature. The research found that from 2000-2015, the total population in locations at risk of flooding increased to anywhere between 58 million and 86 million. 

This surge marks an increase of 20 to 24 percent, a rate 10 times higher than previously thought by scientists, according to the report. 

Cloud to Street predicted that by 2030, 25 new countries will be added to the 32 already experiencing increased flooding. 

The firm noted that previous global flood growth estimates were limited by a lack of observational data, which led scientists to use models for predictions that had high levels of uncertainty. 

Wednesday’s research was based on daily satellite imagery to measure the extent of floods and population exposure for 913 large flood events from 2000 to 2018. 

Cloud to Street, which published the report with NASA, Google Earth Outreach and a series of universities across the country, also unveiled the Global Flood Database based on its research Wednesday. The group called the database “the largest and most accurate dataset of observed floods ever produced, providing a new view into the true scope of flooding.” 

Chief Science Officer and co-founder of Cloud to Street Beth Tellman said in a statement Wednesday, “Using satellite observation data of floods with improved spatial-temporal resolution will help policymakers understand where flood impacts are changing and how best to adapt.” 

Jonathan Sullivan, post-doctoral scientist at the University of Arizona and research co-author, said that “economic development and people moving into flood-prone areas is significantly increasing the number of people exposed to floods in those regions.” 

“Furthermore, increasing flood exposure is rooted in underlying conditions that give vulnerable populations no choice but to settle in flood zones,” Sullivan added. 

The study also indicated that the number of people likely exposed to flooding is exacerbated by climate change. 

“More people and more assets are impacted by flooding than any other climate-fueled disaster, which in turn keeps poor countries poor and drives up the price of food and housing everywhere,” said Bessie Schwarz, CEO and co-founder of Cloud to Street.

The researchers found that nearly 90 percent of flood events occurred in South and Southeast Asia, with the area’s large basins “having the largest absolute numbers of people exposed and increased proportions of population exposed to inundation.” 

The satellite data also revealed previously unidentified increases in flood exposure in other regions, including Southern Asia, Southern Latin America and the Middle East.

The report comes after recent weeks have brought severe flooding across the globe, including in India, China and the Philippines, as well as in European countries like Germany and Belgium.

In India, flooding last month from monsoon rain resulted in the deaths of at least 130 people

Tags Belgium China coastal flooding flooding Germany India monsoon Philippines Southeast Asia

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