A record 22 major natural disasters hit the U.S. 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, forest fires and severe storms was $ 95 billion in damage, making 2020 the nation’s fourth most expensive year for disasters.
“We seem to remember that every year is a historic year, but it’s true,” Adam Smith, a climatologist applied to NOAA’s National Environmental Information Centers who worked on the analysis, told BuzzFeed News. “We run out of adjectives to try to describe these extreme events.”
The increase in costs is due, in part, to people continuing to move and build in places that put their homes and businesses at risk from damage caused by fires, storms and floods. But it is also blamed on human-induced climate change, which is causing a growing number of extreme disasters. Forest fire seasons are getting longer. Hurricanes are getting wetter. I more intense rainfall across the US it is causing more flooding inland.
And in the latest sign of the worsening of the climate crisis, the new data of the Copernicus Climate Change Service of the European Union are shown 2020 tied 2016 as the hottest year on record all over the world. U.S. scientists will publish their own analysis of last year’s temperatures next week.
“As we move forward in time, the fingerprints of climate change are becoming increasingly evident for some of these extreme events,” Smith said.
The most expensive 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 that cost more than $ 1 billion. in the US. Laura also killed 42 lives, making it the deadliest storm of the year.
Although 2020 was the busiest hurricane season ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, the United States saved what could have been even greater storm-related damage because no major storm affected a large city, Smith said.
Hurricanes have historically been some of the most expensive disasters in the United States. In 2017 it previously shared the record for the highest number of costly disasters (16 of them), in part due to its active hurricane season, and it still claims the record for the most expensive year, accumulating $ 306 in damages mainly due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Last year was also a catastrophic year for forest fires. Fires in the western states of California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington caused combined damage of $ 16.5 billion, which burned more than 10.2 million acres and caused 46 deaths, according to NOAA. Forest fires also released large amounts of air pollution, associated with health risks such as asthma and heart attacks, which trigger public health costs that are not taken into account in the NOAA analysis.
Another costly disaster since 2020 was the windstorm that traveled from southeastern South Dakota to Ohio, destroying homes and buildings, cutting power for more than a million people and causing $ 11 billion in total damage.