18 extreme weather events caused $165 billion in damage last year, NOAA says

Costly weather disasters continued to rain down on America last year, beating the nation with 18 climate extremes each causing at least $1 billion in damage, totaling more than $165 billion, federal climate scientists calculated on Tuesday.

Though 2022 was nowhere near record-breaking hotness for the United States, it was the third wildest year nationwide, both in terms of the number of extremes that cost $1 billion and the overall damage from those weather disasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a report published at the American Meteorological Society conference.

The amount, cost, and death toll from multibillion-dollar weather disasters, adjusted for inflation, is a key measure NOAA uses to see how bad human-caused climate change is getting. They resulted in at least 474 deaths.

“People regularly see the effects of a changing climate system in the places where they live, work and play,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said at a Tuesday news conference. “With a changing climate, buckle up. More extreme events are expected.”

Hurricane Ian, the costliest drought in a decade, and a pre-Christmas winter storm drove last year’s damage to the highest levels since 2017. The only more costly years were 2017 — when Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria struck — and the disastrous 2005, when numerous hurricanes, headlined by Katrina, devastated the Southeast, federal weather forecasters said. The only busier years for billion dollar disasters were 2020 and 2021.

Ian was the third costliest U.S. hurricane of all time, with $112.9 billion in damage and more than 100 deaths, followed by $22.2 billion in damage from a Western and Midwestern drought that impacted the Shipping traffic on the Mississippi stopped, officials said.

The $165 billion total for 2022 doesn’t even include a total for the winter storm three weeks ago, which could bring it to nearly $170 billion, officials said. This storm, which swept the country from December 21 to 26 and brought life-threatening sub-freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall, killed dozens of people, particularly in Erie County, New York, where Blizzard conditions became “crippling”.

Nearly 50 inches of snow covers the city of Buffalo


More than 40% of the continental United States suffered official drought conditions for 119 weeks, a record in the federal drought monitor’s 22-year period, which slightly exceeded the old mark of 68 straight weeks, Spinrad said. The country peaked in 2022 with 63% of drought. Spinrad said he expects the atmospheric flow raining on California to bring some relief, but not much.

“Climate change is amplifying many of these extremes that can lead to billion-dollar disasters,” said NOAA climatologist and economist Adam Smith, who calculates the disasters and updates them to exclude inflation. He said more and more people are building in dangerous ways along expensive coastlines and rivers, and the lack of strict building standards is also a problem. With a fair bit of beachfront development, housing inflation could be a small localized factor, he said.

“The United States has some of the most diverse and intense weather and climate extremes you will see in many parts of the world. And we have a large population that’s vulnerable to those extremes,” Smith told The Associated Press. “So it’s really an imbalance right now.”

Climate change is a hard factor to ignore at extremes, from deadly heat to droughts and floods, Smith and other officials said.

“The risk of extreme events is growing and affecting every corner of the world,” said NOAA Chief Scientist Sarah Kapnick.

The problem is especially bad when it comes to dangerous heat, said NOAA climate scientist Stephanie Herring, who publishes an annual study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society that calculates how much of the past few years’ extreme weather has been exacerbated by climate change .

“Research shows that these extreme heat events are also likely to become the new normal,” Herring said at the weather conference. Such events occurred across the country over the past year, with states from California to Pennsylvania grappling with high temperatures. Worldwide, the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF has warned that extreme heat could put “billions” of children at risk.

Some scientists predict that by 2053, about a third of the United States’ population will be dealing with dangerous heat.

Since around 2016, there has been a dramatic upswing in the size and number of ultra-expensive extremes in the US, Smith said. In the past seven years, 121 separate multibillion-dollar weather disasters have caused more than $1 trillion in damage and killed more than 5,000 people.

Those years dwarf what happened in the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s. For example, in the entire decade of the 1990s there were 55 separate billion dollar disasters costing a total of $313 billion and claiming 3,062 lives.

“There’s not just one, but many, many different types of extremes across much of the country,” Smith said. “If extremes were on a bingo card, we’ve almost filled the card in recent years.”

In 2022, there were $9 billion nontropical storms, including one derecho, three hurricanes, two tornado outbreaks, one flood, one winter storm, one mega drought, and costly wildfires. The only common type of weather disaster missing was a freezing freeze causing $1 billion or more in crop damage, Smith said. And last month Florida came close but missed by a degree or two and some preemptive steps by farmers, he said.

Preventing the freeze was one of two “silver linings” in 2022, Smith said. The other was that the wildfire season, while still costing well over $1 billion, wasn’t as bad as in previous years except in New Mexico and Texas, he said.

Impacts of climate change on US coasts


In the first 11 months of 2022, California endured its second driest year on record, but wet weather from an atmospheric flow that began in December made it just the ninth driest year on record for California, said Karin Gleason, chief executive of NOAA -Climate Monitoring .

With a third straight year in which a La Nina cooled the eastern Pacific, which tends to alter weather patterns around the world and mitigate global warming, 2022 was only the 18th warmest year on US records, Gleason said .

“It’s been a warm year, certainly above average for most of the country, but nothing exceptional,” Gleason said. The country’s average temperature was 53.4 degrees (11.9 degrees Celsius), which is 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees) warmer than the 20th-century average.

The year was 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) below normal for rain and snow, the 27th driest of 128 years, Gleason said.

NOAA and NASA will announce Thursday how hot the globe was for 2022, which won’t be a record but will likely be among the seven hottest years. European climate monitoring group Copernicus released its calculations on Tuesday and said 2022 was the fifth warmest in the world and the second warmest in Europe.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — which trap heat to cause global warming — rose 1.3% in 2022, according to a report by the Rhodium Group, a think tank, released Tuesday. That’s less than the economy grew. The increase in emissions was driven by cars, trucks and industry, with power generation being slightly less polluting.

It is the second year in a row, both after loosening, that American carbon pollution has increased after several years of declining fairly steadily. According to the Rhodium report, the United States is becoming less likely to deliver on its promise to halve carbon emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/noaa-billion-dollar-weather-disasters-2022-hurricane-ian-drought/ 18 extreme weather events caused $165 billion in damage last year, NOAA says

Rick Schindler

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