NOAA: Ian, the drought has increased weather extremes in the US in 2022

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DENVER (AP) — Last year, costly weather disasters descended on America, hitting the nation with 18 climate extremes, each of which caused at least $1 billion in damage, amounting to more than $165 billion, federal climate scientists calculated Tuesday.

Although 2022 was nowhere near record-breaking warm weather for the United States, it was the third wildest year nationwide, both in terms of the number of extremes worth $1 billion and the -general damage from those weather disasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a report published at the conference of the American Meteorological Society.

The amount, cost, and death toll from multibillion-dollar weather disasters, adjusted for inflation, is a key measure NOAA uses to gauge how bad climate change is getting. in human-caused climate. They resulted in at least 474 deaths.

“People regularly see the effects of a changing climate system in the places where they live, work and play,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said at a news conference Tuesday. “With a changing climate, buckle up. More extreme events are expected.”

Hurricane Ian, the costliest drought in a decade, and a pre-Christmas winter storm drove last year’s damage to the highest levels since 2017. The only costly years were 2017 — when Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria hit — and the disastrous 2005, when several hurricanes, headlined by Katrina, devastated the Southeast, forecasters said. -federal weather. The only busiest years for billion dollar disasters were 2020 and 2021.

Officials said Ian was the third deadliest U.S. hurricane of all time, with $112.9 billion in damage, followed by $22.2 billion in damage from a Western and Midwestern drought that halted shipping on the -Mississippi River. The $165 billion total for 2022 doesn’t even include a total for the winter storm three weeks ago, which could bring it to nearly $170 billion, officials said.

More than 40% of the continental United States has experienced official drought conditions for 119 weeks, a record in the 22-year period of the federal drought monitor, slightly surpassing the old mark of 68 week straight, Spinrad said. The country has peaked at 63% of the nation’s drought in 2022. Spinrad said he expects the atmospheric flow of rain over California to bring some relief, but not much.

“Climate change is amplifying many of these extremes that could lead to billion-dollar disasters,” said NOAA climatologist and economist Adam Smith, who calculates the disasters and updates them to exclude inflation. . He said more and more people are building in dangerous ways along expensive coasts and rivers, and the lack of strict building standards is also a problem. He said with little offshore development, housing inflation could be a small localized factor.

“The United States has some of the most diverse and consistent weather and climate extremes you will see in many parts of the world. And we have a large population that is vulnerable to those extremes,” Smith told The Associated Press. “So it’s really an imbalance right now.”

Climate change is a hard factor to ignore in extremes, from deadly heat to droughts and floods, Smith and other officials said.

“The risk of extreme events is growing and affecting every corner of the world,” said NOAA Chief Scientist Sarah Kapnick.

The problem is particularly bad when it comes to dangerous heat, said NOAA climate scientist Stephanie Herring, who publishes an annual study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society that calculates how much of the extreme weather of the past few years has been exacerbated. from climate change. .

“Research shows that these extreme heat events are also likely to become the new normal,” Herring said at the weather conference.

Since about 2016, there has been a dramatic improvement in the size and number of ultra-expensive extremes in the United States, Smith said. In the past seven years, 121 separate multibillion-dollar weather disasters have caused more than $1 trillion in damage and killed more than 5,000 people.

Those years exceed what happened in the eighties, nineties, or two thousand. For example, in the entire decade of the nineties there were 55 billion dollars separate disaster that cost a total of $ 313 billion and claimed 3,062 lives.

“It’s not just one, but many, many different types of extremes across most of the country,” Smith said. “If the extremes were on a bingo card, we have almost filled the card in recent years.”

In 2022, there was a $9 billion non-tropical storm, including one derecho, three hurricanes, two tornado outbreaks, one flood, one winter storm, one mega drought, and a costly wildfire. The only common type of weather disaster missing was a freeze that would cause $1 billion or more in crop damage, Smith said. And last month Florida came close but fell short by a degree or two and some preventative steps by farmers, he said.

Freeze prevention was one of two “silver linings” in 2022, Smith said. The other was that the wildfire season, while still costing well over $1 billion, was not as bad as in previous years except in New Mexico and Texas, he said.

In the first 11 months of 2022, California endured the second driest year on record, but wet weather from an atmospheric flow that began in December made it only the ninth driest year on record -record for California, said Karin, director of NOAA’s Climate Control Gleason.

With the third consecutive year in which La Nina has cooled the eastern Pacific, which tends to change weather patterns around the world and mitigate global warming, 2022 was only the 18th the hottest year on record for the United States, Gleason said.

“It’s been a warm year, certainly above average for most of the country, but nothing exceptional,” Gleason said. The country’s average temperature was 53.4 degrees (11.9 degrees Celsius), which is 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees) warmer than the 20th century average.

The year was 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) below normal for rain and snow, the 27th driest in 128 years, Gleason said.

NOAA and NASA will announce Thursday how warm the globe was for 2022, which won’t be a record but will likely be among the seven warmest years. The European climate monitoring group Copernicus released its calculations on Tuesday and said 2022 was the fifth warmest on earth and the second warmest in Europe.

US greenhouse gas emissions — which trap heat to cause global warming — will increase by 1.3% in 2022, according to a report from the Rhodium Group, a think tank, released Tuesday. That’s less than the economy grew. The increase in emissions was driven by cars, trucks and industry, with power generation being slightly less polluting.

It is the second year in a row, both after easing, that US carbon pollution has increased after several years of fairly steady decline. According to the Rhodium report, the US is becoming less likely to fulfill its pledge to halve carbon emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels.


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Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press


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