Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Ten Most Significant Disasters of 2015

Below are what I consider the most significant disasters of 2015 in descending order of relative significance to me. Others undoubtedly and perhaps justifiably would arrange these differently and trade some out for other events not listed. There were other events I was tempted to list but this is my final selection for 2015.

  1. El Niño 2015-2016 - This event effected the entire world throughout most of the year and whose ancillary events killed thousands of people around the world in droughts, famines, wildfires, floods, storms, landslides, and such. 
  2. Nepal Earthquake - M7.8 event on April 25th in the Himalayan Mountains killed over 9,000 people and injured over 23,000 people.
  3. Mina Hajj Stampede - The most deadly stampede to date at the hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, killed 2,411 pilgrims on September 24th. Worshippers from all over the world, particularly Persian people, were among the casualties which further soured relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. 
  4. Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 - This passenger flight was destroyed by an ISIS bomb over the Sinai Desert of Egypt on October 31st killing all 224 people aboard.  
  5. Tianjin Explosions - This spectacular nighttime industrial accident in China on August 12th killed 173 people officially but possibly actually 1,400 people, including 95 of over 1,000 firefighters fighting the fire as well as 11 policemen.
  6. Illapel Earthquake - M8.3 event on September 16th along the coast of Chile generated a Pacific-wide tsunami with local run-ups to 15 feet and 3 feet in Hawaii. 13 people were killed by the quake and 6 are missing.
  7. Western North America Drought - The ongoing Western Drought continued this year with California entering its third or fourth year of drought depending upon how one counts it. This drought in the aggregate may become the most costly disaster in United States history. California was the hardest hit by the drought in 2015 which led to water shortages and rationing, massive water pumping and resulting damaging land subsidence in the Central Valley, distressing tree mortality in forests across the state, and unprecedented wildfire behavior.
  8. Valley Fire - This 76,000 acre fire began on September 12th in Lake County, California. It was pushed by powerful winds in drought-withered fuels quickly over-running a helitack crew burning 4 firefighters on the initial attack and killed four civilians in the following hours. It devastated parts or all of entire communities including Anderson Springs, Cobb, Harbin Hot Springs, Hidden Valley Lake, and Middletown, CA. Destroyed were 1,955 structures including 1,281 homes, 27 multi-family structures, 66 commercial properties and 581 other structures.
  9. Hurricane Patricia - Strongest cyclone ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere struck Mexico on October 23rd with no casualties (6 were killed earlier in Central America). At its peak it had the most powerful maximum sustained winds ever recorded anywhere on Earth (200 mph) and the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded anywhere on Earth (879 mb).
  10. Canadian Wildfires - A perfect storm of longer-term climate change, short-term drought, and decades of fire suppression conspired to generate unprecedented wildfire behavior in the boreal forests of Canada this year.

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