In 2017 there were 16 weather events that cost more than $300 billion in disaster relief assistance. This increase in the frequency and intensity of weather events is directly correlated to the planet’s changing climate, and warming patterns that we’ve been observing since the dawn of the new millennium.
Here’s what you need to know about extreme weather events in 2017:
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that assesses each year’s weather and climate noted that 2017 is the 21st year in a row in which the average annual temperature was warmer than the average over the 20th century.
- NOAA experts also tally the cost of bad weather. NOAA researcher Adam Smith says the cost of these events was unprecedented.
“The cumulative impact of these 16 Weather events exceeds $300 billion in damage,”
- This year saw a trinity of horrible hurricanes: Harvey, Irma and Maria. But there was also flooding in California last February, followed by ferocious late-year fires. There were hail storms in Colorado and Minnesota, and three tornado outbreaks. There was drought and fire in the Plains states.
NOAA’s assessment acknowledges that part of the rising disaster toll is due to people building more homes and businesses in vulnerable places.
- NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt notes that a warmer world clearly makes some weather worse. “Heat waves, their duration, their intensity, their frequency is going up,” he says, as is the frequency of very heavy rainfalls.
- Oceanographer Antonio Busalacchi says climate models predict more of the same. “The trend is there, it is clearly evident,” says Busalacchi, “we are on an upward and warming slope.”
- He says insurance companies have a lot of questions about where the climate is headed.
“Where is the risk in the future going to be from regional sea level rise? Where is the risk going to be for the increase in Category 3, 4 and 5 hurricanes? Where is the risk going to be for straight-line winds?”
- Busalacchi runs the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. He says many scientists who work for him are taking on a new task: advising insurance companies on how to lower those risks as the climate keeps warming.