10 of the most expensive climate-change driven disasters in 2021

U.S. to shatter record for billion-dollar climate disasters in 2020

10 of the most expensive climate-change driven disasters in 2021

From social justice protests to politics to the pandemic, 2020 has been unprecedented in any number of ways.

And although it didn't always receive top billing, the climate crisis and the extreme weather that comes along with it also escalated to levels not experienced before. The U.S.

experienced major disasters the western wildfires, a record-breaking hurricane season and the mid-summer Midwest derecho that caused extensive damage.

So far this year, NOAA's National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI) says the U.S.

has been bombarded by 16 different weather and climate-related disasters with a financial toll of one billion dollars or more — tied for the most with 2011 and 2017.

However, the events included in this year's count have only been tabulated through the end of September and are expected to blow past that number once the final result is released in early January.

In a webinar organized by Climate Central on Thursday, Adam Smith, the head of NCEI's Billion Dollar Weather and Climate effort, said he expects “we will shatter the previous record,” far outpacing the yearly average of 6.6 such events and potentially reaching a total of 20 individual disasters each which cost a billion dollars or more. 

This is the sixth consecutive year in which the U.S. has experienced 10 or more billion-dollar weather and climate-related disasters.

Climate Central

Steve Bowen is a meteorologist and head of catastrophe insight for Aon PLC, a professional services firm focused on risk. He says these losses are escalating due to two main factors: more intense or “unusual” events, and more people and “stuff” in harm's way.

The more intense and usual events are powered by excess heat energy being trapped in the ecosystem by greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. But Bowen says the location of where people are moving has really amplified disaster costs as well.

“Some of the fastest-growing areas of the country include parts of the Southeast, Plains, Rockies, and the West that have been historically prone to high-impact events hurricanes, severe convective storms, flooding, and wildfires,” said Bowen. “If you add more people into regions that are the most vulnerable to direct impacts from climate change-influenced events, you're setting the stage for more risk and subsequent human and physical costs.”

While the frequency of these events matter, Bowen says what is more meaningful is the location and intensity of these events because that is what drives the risk. 

The most notable such events this year were the wildfires in the West, the multitude of hurricane landfalls along the Gulf Coast, and the extremely strong derecho in the Midwest. All of these were beyond modern precedent and all were in areas where population is expanding and assets are becoming more valuable.


Professor Stephen M.

Strader, a severe storms meteorologist and expert on hazards and disaster at Villanova University, agrees with Bowen and says it is difficult to separate the climate hazard event and the societal exposure and vulnerability aspects of disasters. Therefore, we can't say what proportion of the increase in damage is due to climate change and what proportion is due to greater exposure, but he says  each play a vital role and are also rapidly changing. 

“Together, this is not just a recipe for disaster, it's a recipe for repetitive disasters,” Strader said.

“Ignoring the effects of a changing climate, our expanding developed footprint alone is driving an uptick in hazard impact magnitude, frequency, and disaster losses,” explains Strader. This expanding footprint of developed areas is something he calls the expanding bullseye — an illustration of how our population is moving into areas where greater hazards exist.

Illustration of how expanding populations are at increased risk due to climate hazards. Stephen Strader and Walker Ashley


According NOAA and Climate Central, the greatest damage in 2020 came from the most severe fire season on record, which doubled the typical amount of acres burned.

The vast majority of wildfires happened in the western states, where California endured 5 of its 6 largest fires on record and Colorado had 3 of its 4 largest wildfires on record.

Scientists blame the longer and more intense fire seasons on warming and drying due to climate change.

The American Red Cross says wildfires and hurricanes contributed to a record need for emergency shelter this year.


The Atlantic hurricane season was the busiest on record with 30 named storms. Of those, a record 12 systems made landfall in the U.S. The Gulf Coast was hit by 9, shattering the previous record. While these landfalls significantly contributed to the damage totals, none of the strongest hurricanes hit a densely populated U.S. city Houston, Tampa or Miami. 

In years past the greatest economic cost came from major hurricanes Harvey, which impacted densely-populated Houston, costing an estimated $125 billion. That is why 2017, about $450 billion in damage, stands out as one of the years with the greatest damage. 

This year the total figure will be more modest. So far, the total up through September is estimated at $46.6 billion.

Smith expects the total number may reach $100 billion and enter the top 5 costliest years, though still far less than the $450 billion cost in 2017 — and an illustration of just how significant a factor intense events hitting population centers are. Smith notes that these damage assessments do not include the human cost, either the loss of life or the impact to health.

Midwest derecho

For a meteorologist, perhaps the most memorable event of the year was the August derecho — a storm Smith described as an inland hurricane — which plowed a path 800 miles long and 40 miles wide through Iowa and Illinois. A broad area experienced hurricane-force winds, sometimes lasting 50 minutes, with gusts reaching 140 mph. 

So far the damage from the derecho is estimated at $7.5 billion, but Smith expects that total to climb as more data is tallied. While this event was not caused by climate change, there is some evidence it was made stronger by it.

Climate Central

“The greatest existential threat”

2020 makes clear just how vulnerable humans have become to the growing ferocity of natural disasters, which will only continue to escalate in a warming world.

“Much of the news about 2020 disasters and the associated records will ly be overshadowed by the pandemic, politics, societal issues, etc.,” said Strader. “But lurking in the background is the greatest existential threat facing humankind, climate change. One just has to look at the number of disasters and losses we've witnessed this year. We shouldn't lose sight of this.”

Источник: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-billion-dollar-disasters-2020/

The top 10 weather and climate events of a record-setting year » Yale Climate Connections

10 of the most expensive climate-change driven disasters in 2021
It doesn’t get any more ‘2020’ than this: on September 16, 2020, smoke from record western U.S. wildfires pours into the circulation of Hurricane Paulette, one of a record 30 Atlantic named storms in 2020.

(Image credit: CIRA/RAM)

Calendar year 2020 was an extreme and abnormal year, in so many ways. The global coronavirus pandemic altered people’s lives around the world, as did extreme weather and climate events.

Let’s review the year’s top 10 such events.

1. Hottest year on record?

The official rankings will not be released until January 14, but according to NASA, Earth’s average surface temperature in 2020 is ly to tie with 2016 for the hottest year on record, making the last seven years the seven hottest on record.

Remarkably, the record warmth of 2020 occurred during a minimum in the solar cycle and in a year in which a moderate La Niña event formed.

Surface cooling of the tropical Pacific during La Niña events typically causes a slight global cool-down, as does the minimum of the solar cycle, making it difficult to set all-time heat records.

The record heat of 2020 in these circumstances is a demonstration of how powerful human causes of global warming have become.

Figure 1. The eye of category 5 Hurricane Iota on November 16, the strongest hurricane of the 2020 season, as seen by the Sentinel-2 satellite. (Image credit: Pierre Markuse)

2. The wild 2020 Atlantic hurricane season

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season produced an extraordinary 30 named storms (highest on record), 13 hurricanes (second-highest on record), and six major hurricanes (tied for second-highest on record): more than double the activity of an average season (12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes).

The 2020 season was notable not only for its record number of named storms (after breaking into the Greek alphabet by the ridiculously early date of September 18), but also for its record number of rapidly intensifying storms (10), record number of landfalling U.S.

named storms (12), and record number of landfalling U.S. hurricanes (six). Every single mile of the mainland U.S. coast from Texas to Maine was under a watch or warning related to tropical cyclones at some point in 2020. U.S.

hurricane damage exceeded $37 billion, according to insurance broker Aon, the eighth-highest annual total on record.

Two catastrophic category 4 hurricanes hit Central America in November: Hurricane Iota, the latest category 5 storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, and Hurricane Eta, the deadliest tropical cyclone worldwide in 2020, with at least 274 people listed as dead or missing.

At least seven hurricanes from 2020 will be worthy of having their names retired: Iota, Eta, Zeta, Delta, Sally, Laura, and Isaias – although there is still no official mechanism for retiring storm names from the Greek alphabet.

The record for most names retired in one Atlantic season was set in 2005, when five hurricanes had their names retired.

Figure 2. Global energy-related emissions (top) and annual change (bottom) in gigatons of carbon dioxide, with projected 2020 levels highlighted in red. Other major events are indicated to a give a sense of scale. (Image credit: Carbon Brief, using data from the Global Energy Review)

3. Record-high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels despite record emissions drop

As a result of restrictions taken to curb the coronavirus pandemic, carbon emissions to the atmosphere in 2020 declined by 9 to 10% in the U.S.

and 6 to 7% globally, although some of those reductions were offset by carbon released by wildfires. Those are the largest annual carbon emissions declines since World War II and far more than the 1% global and 6% U.

S. emissions drops brought about by the 2008 Great Recession.

Nevertheless, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose by 2.6 parts per million from 2019 to 414 ppm in 2020. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere will not decline until human emissions reach net zero. Moreover, as coronavirus restrictions were lifted during 2020, global carbon pollution nearly rebounded to pre-COVID levels.

Figure 3. A wildfire in the Sakha Republic, Arctic Circle, Siberia, Russia creates smoke and pyrocumulus clouds on July 9, 2020. A record heat wave in Siberia during June led to the Arctic’s first-ever 38.0°C (100.4°F) temperature and helped drive the Arctic’s worst wildfire season on record. (Image credit: Copernicus Sentinel data via Pierre Markuse)

4. An apocalyptic wildfire season

The year 2020 brought record levels of fire activity to the U.S.

and Arctic, but unusually low levels in Canada and tropical Africa, resulting in a below-average year for global fire activity, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.

According to Insurance broker Aon, the global direct cost of wildfires in 2020 was $17 billion, ranking as the fifth-costliest wildfire year, behind 2017, 2018, 2015 (major Indonesian fires), and 2010 (major Russian fires).

The Australian bushfire season ending in early 2020 (due to seasons in the Southern hemisphere being the reverse of those in the Northern hemisphere) was also a record-breaker, having burned more than 46 million acres and destroyed more than 3,500 homes.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported that U.S. wildfires burned 10.25 million acres as of December 18, 2020, the highest yearly total since accurate records began in 1983. The previous record was 10.13 million acres in 2015. The hottest August through October period in Western U.S.

history, combined with severe drought and a once-in-a-generation offshore wind event, conspired to bring about an apocalyptic western U.S. wildfire season. Total U.S. wildfire damages in 2020 were $16.5 billion, said Aon, ranking as its third-costliest year on record, behind 2017 ($24 billion) and 2018 ($22 billion).

Wildfires caused at least 43 direct U.S. deaths. But the indirect death toll among people 65 and older in California alone during the period August 1-September 10 – due to wildfire smoke inhalation – was ly between 1,200 and 3,000, researchers at Stanford University reported in a September 11 study. The 4.

2 million acres burned in California in 2020 was more than double the previous record set in 2018.

5. Super Typhoon Goni: Strongest landfalling tropical cyclone on record

Super Typhoon Goni made landfall near Bato, Catanduanes Island, Philippines, on November 1 with sustained winds of 195 mph and a central pressure of 884 mb, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, or JTWC.

Goni was the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in world recorded history, using one-minute average wind speeds from the National Hurricane Center for the Atlantic/Northeast Pacific and one-minute average winds from JTWC for the rest of the planet’s ocean basins.

Goni killed 31 people, damaged or destroyed 250,000 homes, and caused over $1 billion in damage, tying it with Typhoon Bopha in 2012 and Typhoon Vamco in 2020 as the Philippines’ second-most expensive typhoon on record, adjusted for inflation. Only Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 ($11.1 billion) was more damaging.

Ominously, seven of the 10 strongest landfalls in recorded history have occurred since 2006.

Figure 4. The temperature measurement enclosure at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center in Death Valley, California, on August 17, 2020, when the site recorded a maximum temperature of 127 degrees Fahrenheit (52.8°C). The previous day, the site reported a preliminary world record for hottest reliably measured temperature on record: 129.9 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4°C). (Image credit: Climatologist William Reid, who is holding up the hand-held temperature sensor)

6. Hottest reliably measured temperature: 130°F in Death Valley

Death Valley, California, hit an astonishing 129.9 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4°C) at 3:41 p.m. PDT, August 16, 2020, at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center. This reading was rounded to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the daily summary from NOAA.

According to weather records experts Christopher Burt, who wrote the comprehensive weather records book “Extreme Weather,” and Maximiliano Herrera, who tweets under the handle, Extreme Temperatures Around the World, the observation may be the hottest reliably recorded temperature in world history, breaking the 129.

2 degrees Fahrenheit readings at Death Valley in 2013 and in Kuwait in 2016.

The World Meteorological Organization is conducting a review of the site’s observing equipment. “If the observation passes an investigation (instrument calibration, etc.

) then, yes, this is a new reliably measured global extreme heat record,” Burt wrote by email.

However, the official world record will remain a 134 degrees Fahrenheit measurement taken at Death Valley on July 10, 1913, a record widely viewed as bogus.

7. Most expensive 2020 disaster: Flooding in China causes $32 billion in damage

Seasonal monsoon flooding in China in June through September killed 278 people, damaged or destroyed 1.4 million homes and businesses, and did $32 billion in damage, according to insurance broker Aon.

EM-DAT, the international disaster database, ranks that total as the third-most expensive non-U.S.

weather disaster since accurate records began in 1990 (adjusted for inflation), behind 1998 flooding in China ($48 billion) and 2011 flooding in Thailand ($47 billion).

In a September 2020 study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “Each 0.5°C of Warming Increases Annual Flood Losses in China by More than US$60 Billion,” researchers found that annual average flood losses in China during the period 1984-2018 were $19.

2 billion (2015 dollars), which was 0.5% of China’s GDP. Annual flood losses increased to $25.3 billion annually during the period 2006-2018. The study authors predicted that each additional 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming will increase China flood losses by $60 billion per year.

Figure 5. Arctic sea ice age near the time of the annual minimum in 1985 (left) and in 2020 (right). There is very little old, thick ice left in the Arctic, increasing the chances of a late-summer ice-free Arctic by the 2030s. (Image credit: Zack Labe)

8. Near-record low Arctic sea ice

Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum on September 15, 2020, bottoming out at its second-lowest extent and volume ever recorded, behind 2012.

A new study suggests that the 2012 record hasn’t been broken despite ever-rising temperatures because the rapidly-warming Arctic has altered the jet stream, leading to cloudy summer Arctic conditions that have acted to temporarily preserve some of the sea ice.

However, long-term global warming will inevitably win out, and scientists expect the Arctic to be ice-free in the summer beginning sometime between 2030 and 2050. Overall, three-quarters of the volume of summer sea ice in the Arctic has melted over the past 40 years.

The Northern Sea Route along the northern coast of Russia finally froze shut on November 3, after being open a record 112 days, and 2020 was the busiest shipping season ever for natural gas tankers in the Arctic, according to Bloomberg.

9. U.S. withdrawal from Paris Climate Accord and election of Joe Biden

The U.S. officially withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement the day after the November 3, 2020 election. But Joe Biden, who won that presidential election, has announced his intent to immediately rejoin the Paris agreement on the day of his inauguration: January 20, 2021.

President-elect Biden considers tackling climate change a top priority and has proposed a plan to invest $2 trillion over four years in deploying climate solutions. He has assembled a team tasked with carrying out that plan, including several climate-focused cabinet member-nominees and the first national adviser on climate change.

It’s a dramatic change from the previous administration’s record of climate and environmental protection rollbacks.

10. A near-record number of global billion-dollar weather disasters

Through the end of November, 44 billion-dollar weather disasters had occurred globally in 2020, according to the November 2020 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon. The record in the Aon database is 47, set in 2010, and 2020 could challenge that record when the final tallies are announced on January 25, 2021.

The United States suffered 25 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2020, surpassing Aon’s previous U.S. record of 20 in 2017. The record number of U.S. disasters led to the American Red Cross’s providing record levels of disaster sheltering in 2020, according to a December 2 article by E&E News.

An October 13 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction found a “staggering” rise in climate-related disasters, including extreme weather events: those nearly doubled, from 3,656 in 1980-1999 to 6,681 in 2000-2019. The number of major floods more than doubled, from 1,389 to 3,254, and the incidence of destructive storms increased from 1,457 to 2,034.

The report blamed human-caused climate change as a significant factor in the increased disasters.

It warned: “It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.” The U.N.

report authors called attention to “industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to levels commensurate with the desired goal of keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius as set out in the Paris Agreement.”

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Topics: Policy & Politics, Weather Extremes

Источник: https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/12/the-top-10-weather-and-climate-events-of-a-record-setting-year/

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