NOAA Chief: U.S. Record of a Dozen Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in One Year Is “a Harbinger of Things to Come”
"NOAA Chief: U.S. Record of a Dozen Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in One Year Is “a Harbinger of Things to Come”"
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released an analysis, “U.S. sets record with a dozen billion-dollar weather disasters in one year.” They report:
- To date, the United States set a record with 12 separate billion dollar weather/climate disasters in 2011, with an aggregate damage total of approximately $52 billion. This record year breaks the previous record of nine billion-dollar weather/climate disasters in one year, which occurred in 2008.
- These twelve disasters alone resulted in the tragic loss of 646 lives, with the National Weather Service reporting over 1,000 deaths across all weather categories for the year.
- Previously only 10 events were reported; the two new billion-dollar weather and climate events added to the 2011 total include:
- The Texas, New Mexico, Arizona wildfires event, now exceeding $1 billion, had been previously accounted for in the larger Southern Plains drought and heatwave event. This is in line with how NOAA has traditionally accounted for large wildfire events as separate events.
- The June 18-22 Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather event, which just recently exceeded the $1 billion threshold
UPDATE: ClimateWire (subs. req’d) reported on Thursday:
… this year was not an aberration, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said during a speech here yesterday.
The seemingly endless onslaught of floods, droughts, wildfires, windstorms, blizzards and tornadoes that have marked 2011 fit within an ongoing increase in the number of natural disasters recorded in the United States, she said, citing statistics maintained by reinsurer Munich Re.
And at least some of that increase appears to be driven by climate change, Lubchenco said, citing a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“What we are seeing this year is not just an anomalous year, but a harbinger of things to come for at least a subset of those extreme events that we are tallying,” the NOAA chief told attendees of the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting.
In September 2010, Munich Re one of the world’s leading reinsurers, wrote “the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.” Here is the chart on their statistics:
In January, they summed up 2010 this way: “The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change.”
You may recall my repost last month of Dr. Jeff Masters’ analysis, “Fourteen U.S. billion-dollar weather disasters in 2011: a new record.”
The difference is these two storms:
NOAA continues to collect and assess data regarding several other extreme events that occurred this year including the pre-Halloween winter storm that impacted the Northeast and the wind/flood damage from Tropical Storm Lee. Currently, these events are not over the $1B threshold using the available data.
They beat the threshold according to Masters, easily, in the case of the Pre-Halloween storm:
No, not all of those events can be attributed to climate change, but climate change almost certainly made most of them worse (see “Tornadoes, extreme weather, and climate change“). As climatologist Kevin Trenberth always reminds us:
One of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.
And lumping the Texas drought and wildfires as one single disaster suggests, if nothing else, the scale of the extreme weather catastrophes to come (see “Nature Publishes My Piece on Dust-Bowlification and the Grave Threat It Poses to Food Security“).
- Bombshell: Study Finds 80% Chance Russia’s 2010 July Heat Record Would Not Have Occurred Without Climate Warming
- The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”
- Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment