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: