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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Billion Dollar Disasters

Billion Dollar Disasters

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, February 6, 2019/Categories: video, space science, sustainability, environment, climate change

                                                       Billion Dollar Disasters Map, 2018 (credit: NOAA)

It is now official: 2018 was one of the most costly years for disasters, running into billions of dollars, for the United States. The National Atmospheric & Oceanic Administration (NOAA) has released a report on the costs incurred from hurricanes, floods, fires, drought, and other extreme events last year. According to NOAA's National Center's for Environmental Information (NCEI):

"Since 1980, the U.S.A.. has sustained 241 weather and climate disasters where the overall damage costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The cumulative cost for these 241 events exceeds $1.6 trillion. In 2018 alone, the U.S.A.. was impacted by 14 separate billion-dollar disaster events: two tropical cyclones, eight severe storms, two winter storms, drought, and wildfires. The past three years (2016-2018) have been historic, with the annual average number of billion-dollar disasters being more than double the long-term average."


Over the 38-year time, NOAA used storm-incurred costs for each state greater than $1 billion in recovery expenses. Seven weather events were considered: droughts; hurricanes; flooding; wildfires; freezes; winter storms; and extreme rainfall.


    Camp Fire, Northern California Fall 2018 (credit: NASA)           Hurricane Florence North Carolina, Spring 2018 (credit: NOAA)

Over the period, every state experienced at least one billion dollar disaster event with Texas experiencing the most, 104. Texas was also one of the few states impacted by all seven types of billion dollar weather disasters.


The NOAA report concludes:

"Billion-dollar disaster events are becoming an increasingly larger percentage of the cumulative damage from the full distribution of weather-related events at all scales and loss levels. This reflects a combination of increased exposure, vulnerability, and the fact that climate change is playing an increasing role in the increasing frequency in some types of extremes that lead to billion-dollar disasters."

The new report calculated only the costs to the US for repairing infrastructure and insurance related damages. It did not address the impacts to wildlife. However, a wildlife 'snapshot' came from Australia recently where Extreme heat wiped out almost one third of Australia's spectacled flying-fox population. The bats simply fell dead from their day-time roosting trees due to heat stress. The dead bats provided a grim demonstration of the 19th Century 'canary in the coal mine' approach, that warned miners of dangerous gases, to act quickly.

In the 21st Century climate change, amplifying weather, should be forcing us to act before we go the way of the bats. 



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