A record 22 major natural disasters will hit the United States by 2020, each causing at least $ 1 billion in damage, according to a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analysis published Friday.
The total cost of these major hurricanes, fires and storm forests has been $ 95 billion in damage, making 2020 the nation’s fourth most expensive year for disasters.
“We kind of sound like a broken record saying that every year is a historic year, but it’s true,” said Adam Smith, a climatologist applied to the NOAA National Center for Environmental Information who worked on the analysis, he told BuzzFeed News. “We ended up without adjectives trying to describe these extreme events.”
The rising costs are partly due to people continuing to move and build in places that put their homes and businesses at risk of fire, storms and flood damage. But it is also blamed on man-made climate change, which leads to a growing number of extreme disasters. The seasons of the fire are getting longer. Hurricanes are getting wetter. And heavier precipitation across the United States they cause more internal flooding.
And in the latest sign of the worsening climate crisis, new data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service show 2020 has tied 2016 as the hottest year on record throughout the world. U.S. scientists published their own analysis of last year’s temperatures next week.
“As we move forward in time, the fingerprints of climate change become increasingly evident for some of these extreme events,” Smith said.
The most costly disaster of 2020 was Hurricane Laura, which hit the Louisiana coast as a Category 4 storm and generated $ 19 billion in damage, one of seven tropical cyclones costing the U.S. $ 1 billion. Laura also claimed 42 lives, making it the nation’s deadliest storm of the year.
Even though 2020 was the busiest hurricane season ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, the United States has been spared what could be even greater storm-related damage because no major storm has hit a large city, Smith said.
Hurricanes have historically been some of the most costly disasters in the United States. 2017 first shared the record for the highest number of costly disasters – 16 of them – in part due to its active hurricane season, and it always holds the record for the most expensive year, accumulating $ 306 in damages largely due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Mary.
Last year was also a catastrophic year for fires. Fires across the western states of California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington have led to $ 16.5 billion in damage, burning more than 10.2 million hectares and causing 46 deaths, according to NOAA. Wildfires have also released a large amount of air pollution, associated with health risks such as asthma and heart attacks, Which raise public health costs not accounted for in the NOAA analysis.
Another major disaster since 2020 has been the straight wind storm that has traveled from southeastern South Dakota to Ohio, destroying homes and buildings, cutting power for more than 1 million people, and causing $ 11 billion in total damage.