Extreme Weather Year in the US

This year has been noteworthy for the number of extreme events across the U.S. In fact, we have had 12 disasters that have exceeded $1 billion in losses each in 2011. We also experienced some $50 billion in total losses for the year. And that is with a fairly quiet hurricane season. Some of those billion dollar disasters had direct impacts on Illinois, including the February blizzard, and the spring flooding.
You can read more about the major disasters this year at http://www.noaa.gov/extreme2011/
NOAA is promoting a new concept called a “Weather Ready Nation”. The idea is to be better prepared and to better respond to weather/climate disasters. This involves better forecasts, better dissemination of forecasts, and closer working relationships among federal, state, and local partners. I’m sure we will hear more about this in coming months.
[Update: The method used to generate the bar-plot part of this graph is apparently flawed. While the line plots show both actual damages and damages adjusted for the Consumer Price Index, they did not make a similar adjustment on the number of 1 billion dollar event. As a result, the number of 1 billion dollar events will climb as prices climb (for example, the destroyed $100k home in 1980 would be worth $250k in 2011). See http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/01/bad-economics-at-noaa.html.]

Click to enlarge.

One Reply to “Extreme Weather Year in the US”

  1. NOAA provides the poorest analysis of disaster damage I have seen. Adjusting for CPI is not enough for accurate damage loss comparisons. Accurate studies adjusts for population and wealth disparity in a geographic area over time. This is called “normalization of loss record”. As an example the 1927 Miami Hurricane “normalized” cost is $165 billion meaning that had the same storm in 1927 occurred today it would cost $165 billion because of the greater population and wealth that exists in Miami now compared to 1927. The loss damage in 2011 of $50 billion doesn’t even come close to just the $165 billion damage of 1 hurricane in 1927. That is the only honest way to determine apples to apples weather related damage costs and NOAA does not have that sophistication.
    As for floods adjustments would have to be made for dams, field tiles, population infringement, and other “land use” factors that have altered natural water absorption capabilities of the soil.
    The most recent analysis has determined that any anthropogenic signal for an increase in damage loss may take 150 years to reveal itself. In the meantime, if you want to lower costs of damage, you need to limit population and wealth from moving to coastal areas and flood plains. Good luck with that.

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