Natural disasters caused record $306 billion in damage to U.S. in 2017

Natural disasters caused record $306 billion in damage to U.S. in 2017

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An Associated Press report published on 
January 8 in USA Today said that a trio of monster hurricanes and a 
ferocious wildfire season led to the costliest year for natural 
disasters on record in the U.S. in 2017, with nearly a third of a 
trillion dollars in damage, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric 
Administration announced Monday, January9.

The U.S. endured 16 separate weather and
 climate disasters with losses that each exceeded $1 billion last year, 
with total costs of about $306 billion, a new record for the country. It
 broke the previous record set in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and other
 disasters caused $215 billion in damage to the U.S.

Last year’s disasters killed 362 people 
in the U.S., including Puerto Rico, NOAA said. However, NOAA 
climatologist Adam Smith said the death toll could increase based on 
information that continues to come in from Puerto Rico.

It was also the most expensive hurricane
 season on record at $265 billion and the costliest wildfire season on 
record at $18 billion, Smith said.

The news comes only weeks after the House passed an $81 billion disaster aid package. The Senate did not take up the bill and is working on its own version.

Hurricane Harvey racked up total damage 
costs of $125 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina in the 38-year 
period of record keeping for billion-dollar disasters. Rainfall from 
Harvey caused massive flooding that displaced more than 30,000 people 
and damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 homes and businesses, NOAA 

Hurricanes Maria and Irma totaled $90 
billion and $50 billion in damage, respectively. Maria now ranks as the 
third-costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation 
and Irma ranks as the fifth-costliest.

The total of last year’s disaster costs 
is nearly the same as Denmark’s gross domestic product, which the World 
Bank tallied at $306.9 billion in 2016.

Climate change is “playing an increasing
 role in the increasing frequency of some types of extreme weather that 
lead to billion-dollar disasters, most notably the rise in vulnerability
 to drought, lengthening wildfire seasons and the potential for 
extremely heavy rainfall and inland flooding,” Smith said.

Another expert, University of Georgia 
meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd, said that “while we have to be 
careful about knee-jerk cause-effect discussions, the National Academy 
of Science and recent peer-reviewed literature continue to show that 
some of today’s extremes have climate change fingerprints on them.”

The announcement came at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Austin.

As for temperatures in 2017, the U.S. sweltered through its 3rd-warmest year on record, trailing only 2012 and 2016, NOAA said.

For the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous U.S. and Alaska was warmer than average.

Five states — Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico,
 North Carolina and South Carolina — experienced their warmest year on 
record. Thirty-two additional states, including Alaska, had annual 
temperatures that ranked among the 10 warmest on record.

“While the weather can change on a dime,
 our climate is steadily warming,” said Shaun Martin of the World 
Wildlife Fund. “Each year provides another piece of evidence in what 
science has already confirmed — the consequences of rising temperatures 
are putting people and wildlife at risk.”


“In the U.S., we’re seeing more severe 
droughts, wildfires, crop losses and more frequent coastal storms with 
deadly impacts,” Martin added.

Global temperature data for 2017 will be released on Jan. 18 by NOAA and NASA.


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