The US was hit with 20 extreme weather events in 2021 that resulted in 688 deaths and $145 billion in damages, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The events include everything from droughts to hailstorms in Texas to wildfires in the west and flooding.
The four tropical storms that rocket the nation had the biggest impact, costing Americans $78.5 billion – and $74 billion was just from damages during Hurricane Ida that left a trail of destruction from Louisiana to New York.
The report complied all disasters from 1980 through 2021 in the US, showing a total of 310 disasters that cost $2.155 trillion.
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The four tropical storms that rocket the nation had the biggest impact, costing Americans $78.5 billion – and $74 billion was just from damages during Hurricane Ida that left a trail of destruction from Louisiana (pictured) to New York
NOAA climatologist and economist Adam Smith, who compiles billion-dollar weather disasters for NOAA, told the Associated Press: ‘It was a tough year. Climate change has taken a shotgun approach to hazards across the country.’
Scientists have long said human-caused climate change makes extreme weather nastier and more frequent, documenting numerous links to wild and deadly weather events.
They say hotter air and oceans and melting sea ice alter the jet stream which brings and stalls storm fronts, makes hurricanes wetter and stronger, while worsening western droughts and wildfires.
Last year’s weather disasters included a record shattering heat wave in the Pacific Northwest where temperatures hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland, a devastating and deadly cold icy storm in Texas, a widespread windstorm called a derecho, four hurricanes that caused intense damage, deadly tornado outbreaks, mudslides and a persistent drought and lots of wildfires.
The events include everything from droughts to hailstorms in Texas to wildfires in the west and flooding. Pictured is the Caldor Fire that was burning in Eldorado National Forest, California last year
While 2020 set the record for the most billion-dollar disasters, in 2021 ‘the extremes seemed a bit more profound than in 2020,’ Smith said.
The report states last year’s weather events one drought event, two flooding events, 11 severe storm events, four tropical cyclone events, one wildfire event and one winter storm event.
Winter storms left behind the most damage after the devastating tropical storms, which included hail storms in Texas during April and cold waves that hit the northeast, central and eastern regions.
All of these disasters racked up a $24 billion bill in damages.
However, the deadliest events were the western drought and heat wave – combined these killed 229 people.
The last deadlier year was 2011, with Hurricane Maria in 2017 that killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, which isn´t part of the contiguous United States.
Winter storms left behind the most damage after the devastating tropical storms, which included hail storms in Texas during April and cold waves that hit the northeast, central and eastern regions. Pictured is a snowstorm in San Antonio, Texas in Jan 2021
The last five years have cost $742 billion in 86 separate billion-dollar weather disasters, an average of more than 17 a year, a new record. That´s nearly $100 billion more than the combined total of all the billion-dollar disasters from 1980 to 2004, adjusted for inflation and far more the three billion-dollar disasters a year that the nation averaged in the 1980s.
‘That´s exactly what I´d expect with climate change because climate change is essentially supercharging many types of extreme weather, making heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, intense rainfall, flooding, and storms more severe, destructive and deadly,’ said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of environmental studies at the University of Michigan, who wasn´t part of the reports.
However, the deadliest events were the western drought and heat wave – combined these killed 229 people. Pictured is a kayaker paddling in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to continuing drought conditions in Oroville, California on Sunday, August 22, 2021
Last year was also the fourth warmest year on record in the United States, with an average temperature of 54.5 degrees, according to another NOAA report.
Several cities had their hottest years on record, including Akron, Ohio; Baltimore; Bismarck, North Dakota; Boston; Buffalo, New York; Erie, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Montpelier, Vermont; Sault Saint Marie, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.
Over the long-run, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been decreasing – even with 2021´s jump from the sudden 2020 plunge.
However, last year’s emissions increased the difficulty in reaching the goal President Joe Biden set as part of the Paris and Glasgow climate agreements, Rhodium Group partner Kate Larsen, a co-author of the emissions report, said.
She said to get to the 50 percent cut Biden pledged, the country needs to be reducing emissions 5 percent a year, not increasing.
‘We are running out of time,’ Larsen said.