2017 goes down as costliest year ever for natural disasters in US


According to NOAA, since 1980, the US sustained 219 weather and climate disasters that exceeded $1.5 trillion in overall damages to date.

Climate-related disasters, including the hurricanes and wildfires that dominated headlines during late 2017, exceeded $300 billion in costs a year ago - a new annual USA record.

"The years 2017 and 2016 each had a historically high number of billion-dollar disasters that impacted the USA (16 and 15 events, respectively)", the NOAA report read.

But the deadliest hurricane season in United States history has been 1,900 when Galveston killed 8,000 people and caused damage worth $104.3 billion.

Events adding to the total include one drought, two floods, one freeze, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and one wildfire, the NOAA said.

Hurricane Irma, that just followed Hurricane Harvey, cost the U.S. $50 billion, the fifth costliest in United States history of natural disasters, the NOAA assessment says.

Hurricane Maria, which flattened much of Puerto Rico, cost $90 billion, while Hurricane Irma, which plowed into the Caribbean and Florida, cost $50 billion.

That would tie with 2011 for the largest number of such billion-dollar disasters, the agency said. Only 2005's Hurricane Katrina did more damage.

Noaa confirmed that 2017 was the third warmest year on record for the US.

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Five states had their hottest year on record: Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and New Mexico. Maria now ranks as the third-costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation and Irma ranks as the fifth-costliest. Hurricane Harvey carried a cost of roughly $125 billion.

Rachel Cleetus, UCS's lead economist and climate policy manager, outlined in a blog post how the NOAA report echoes reports from the insurance industry. The 1980-2017 annual average is 5.8 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2013-2017) is 11.6 events (CPI-adjusted).

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

"Last week, Munich Re, one of the world's leading reinsurers, stated that the costs to the insurance industry from Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and other 2017 disasters, are expected to reach $135 billion globally, the highest ever, with the USA share dominating at 50 percent of these costs".

Scientists have long concluded that carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels and industry are driving climate change, leading to floods, droughts and more-frequent powerful storms.

In total, wildfires throughout the West caused $18 billion in damage and resulted in 54 deaths.

Information from the US National Hurricane Centre shows Dennis, Cindy, Ophelia, Rita, Wilma were other hurricanes of the season that cost US $211.2 billion.

Indeed, the key question underlying the latest tally of disaster cost is to what extent climate change may be driving the United States and the rest of the world toward more numerous or more severe disasters. 2016 and 2012 were the only warmer years.