Energy & Environment

US sets new cost record for major disasters

The United States set a new record last year for the total cost of weather and climate change-related disasters that exceeded $1 billion, driven largely by wildfires and hurricanes.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Center for Environmental Information said in a Monday report that the 16 disasters that cost more than $1 billion added up to $306 billion. The total number of disasters tied with 2011 for a record, while the total cost was a new high.

“The damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria alone are responsible for approximately $265.0 billion of the $306.2 billion,” Adam Smith, an economist at NOAA, wrote in a blog post. “Each of these destructive hurricanes now joins Katrina and Sandy, in the new top 5 costliest U.S. hurricanes on record.”

The $306 billion total is also a new cost record worldwide for one country for a year.

{mosads}Smith attributed the new cost record to increasing wealth and population, as well as effects of climate change like drought and flooding.

The previous record year for $1 billion disasters was 2005, the year of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, with an inflation-adjusted $214.8 billion cost.

The nation’s $1 billion disasters last year were three hurricanes, eight severe storms, two inland floods, a crop freeze, a drought and a wildfire.

The only category that did not see a $1 billion disaster last year was winter storms.

NOAA also announced Monday that 2017 was the third-warmest year on record within the United States, at 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. The only warmer years were 2016 and 2012.

Tags Adam Smith Climate change National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather

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