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Worried about dying by shark-bite? You're more than 20 times more likely to be killed by the weather

Source: Flickr Creative Commons

Source: Flickr Creative Commons

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 6:02 PM - Sharks are some of the most feared predators on the planet, especially with their numbers increasing and the number of reported attacks also on the rise, but when it comes down to the numbers, you have far more to worry about from the weather than you do from going in the water.

As reported on Vox.com, worldwide, the number of unprovoked shark attacks on peoples does seem to be on the rise in recent years - defining 'unprovoked' as specifically where the shark makes first contact, rather than after being caught in a net or hooked on a fishing line, or due to a swimmer or diver purposefully getting too close.

Credit: Florida Museum of Natural History

However, these are straight-up numbers that are likely the due to the intersection of greater shark populations meeting larger numbers of people heading to the beach. Also, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History (FMNH): "The apparent increase in attacks after 1993 (dashed line) is in part an artifact of a breakthrough in communication with Volusia County (FL) emergency responders and lifeguards, resulting in the reporting of a greater number of minor attacks that had previously gone unreported." So, the increase in other parts of the world could easily be due to similar breakthroughs.

Shark attacks are very scary, considering that we like to think of ourselves as being at the top of the food chain (even though we're not), but weather is far, far more dangerous to us than sharks ever could be. 

Just looking at the numbers the FMNH put up on their site - as they like to show that sharks aren't quite as bad as we might think they are - between 1985 and 2010, there were a total of 1,602 tornadoes in the state of Florida, resulting in 125 fatalities, while during the same time period, there were 484 unprovoked shark attacks, resulting in 6 deaths. That's only a little over three times as many tornadoes as shark attacks, but there were more than 20 times as many fatalities from those tornadoes than there were from the sharks.

Looking at something a bit more frequent, and spreading out the sampling wider as well, when it comes to lightning strikes vs sharks for every coastal state in the United States, for over 50 years (from 1959-2010), there were 1,970 fatalities from lightning, and 26 deaths by shark attack (out of 974 recorded unprovoked attacks). That puts lightning as over 75 times more deadly than Jaws.

Now, these are some pretty simplistic numbers, overall, and the Museum goes even further, comparing shark attacks and deaths to household accidents, traffic accidents, dog attacks, etc. However, the point is that, although incidences of shark attack get a lot of media attention (and let's face it, the shark pictured above is pretty scary-looking), it's extremely rare when something like this actually happens. Compared to the annual chance of dying from the typical aspects of our lives, or even the more unusual aspects (like the 1 in 250,000 chance of being killed by a meteorite), the annual risk of being killed by a shark (1 in 3,748,067) is pretty remote (although apparently still better than winning the lottery).

So, get out and enjoy the beach whenever you can, but remember, when thunder roars, head indoors!

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