Weather Report Question: What type of weather kills the most people?
A: It depends on how far back you want to look at weather data, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. That’s because flash floods have been the number one killer in the United States over the last 30-year period. “In the United States, floods have been the No.1 killer each year since the 1930s,” McRoberts says. “In the past 75 years or so, an average of 100 people a year die from flash floods in America. But the surprising part of the equation is when you consider ‘weather extreme’ deaths — those that are associated with extreme hot and cold temperatures.”
Q: What are the figures on weather extreme deaths?
A: In the United States, especially in the last 30 years when data has been recorded more often and more accurately, weather extreme deaths have led all other types of weather-related fatalities, McRoberts says. “In the U.S., the most likely killer is usually heat,” he explains. “In the last 10-year period about 123 people die per year because of various heat waves, compared to an average of 75 during floods, 33 each year from lightning, and 109 from tornadoes. If you combine the heat deaths with those that die from lightning strikes and tornadoes, it’s clear that most weather-related deaths in the U.S. occur during the summer months.”
Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.