State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

The Caribbean’s Growing Disaster Hotspots

The 125 million people of the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico region are highly exposed to hurricanes, floods and landslides–and it is not only because of bad weather. Increasing numbers of the poor are crowding into confined areas that are most prone to destruction–low-lying flood plains, too-steep hillsides, and the like. Robert Chen, director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), will describe this alarming trend in an AGU talk on Friday, the last day of the meeting.

Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean number of extreme climate hotspots, by administrative unit. Blues are low number; greens moderate; yellow to red show progressively more. (Courtesy CIESIN)
Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean number of extreme climate hotspots, by administrative unit. Blues are low number; greens moderate; yellow to red show progressively more. (Courtesy CIESIN)

CIESIN specializes in creating maps that show humans’ interaction with the natural environment. Ones for this region show deadly combinations of poverty and physical vulnerability to weather. (Blues signal low numbers; greens moderate; yellow to red, progressively more.) Hotspots are clustered across Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Along the coast of Latin America are wide swaths of danger spanning Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Not surprisingly,  low-lying parts of Texas, Louisiana and southern Florida also stand out.

Many scientists believe climate change will worsen extremes of weather. The CIESIN research suggest that even if this never happens, as the population of dangerous areas grows, these hotspots will continue to get more dangerous.

See CIESIN-generated maps of worldwide vulnerability to changing climate.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Connie
12 years ago

It is disturbing to read of the increasing degradation of living standards in and around the Caribbean. As someone who lived there for many years I’m sorry to hear things are showing little sign of improving.