The Caribbean’s Growing Disaster Hotspots

by |December 16, 2010

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.


One thought on “The Caribbean’s Growing Disaster Hotspots

  1. Connie says:

    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.

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