NOAA: Disaster losses totaled more than $165 billion in 2022

Hurricane Ian, the costliest drought in a decade and a pre-Christmas winter storm drove last year’s catastrophic weather losses to the highest levels since 2017.

DENVER — Costly weather disasters continued to rain down on America last year, slamming 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.

While 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 costing $1 billion and the total damage from these weather disasters National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a report issued at the American Meteorological Society conference.

The amount, cost and death toll of multi-billion dollar weather catastrophes form a key inflation-adjusted measurement that NOAA uses to see how bad man-made climate change receives. They resulted in at least 474 deaths.

Hurricane Ianthe costliest drought in ten years and a pre-Christmas winter storm damage last year to the highest level since 2017. The only dearer years were 2017 — when Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria struck — and the disastrous 2005, when numerous hurricanes led by Katrina battered the Southeast, federal weather forecasters said. The only busier years for billion dollar disasters were 2020 and 2021.

Ian was the third costliest hurricane to hit the United States, with $112.9 billion in damage, followed by $22.2 billion in damage from a western and midwestern drought stopped shipping on the Mississippi, 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.

“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 consistently 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 particularly 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 severe extreme weather has been in previous years have 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.

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 it had been in years past, except in New Mexico and Texas, he said.

For the first 11 months of 2022, California endured its second driest year on record, but wet of one atmospheric flow that began in December made it the ninth driest year on record for California, said Karin Gleason, director of NOAA’s climate monitoring.

With a third consecutive year a La Nina With cooling in the eastern Pacific tending to change 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. It makes it less likely that the United States will achieve anything his promise According to the Rhodium report, CO2 emissions are to be halved by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. NOAA: Disaster losses totaled more than $165 billion in 2022

Laura Coffey

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