Billion-dollar weather disasters challenge records in 2021

Business

The Washington Post 11 October, 2021 - 04:50pm

$1 billion: The starting price tag for 18 weather disasters in the US so far in 2021

Insider 12 October, 2021 - 12:00am

According to the report, the 18 events combined have cost the US an estimated $104.8 billion in damage.

This year is a close second to 2020's US record of 22 billion-dollar weather disasters. The estimated cost for those events for the full year was $95 billion, however, below the 2021 toll with 2 1/2 months to go.

The disasters include hailstorms, tornadoes, tropical storms, hurricanes, wildfires, and ongoing droughts.

NOAA reported that the 18 events also resulted in 538 deaths, more than double the 262 fatalities in 2020.

Last month, CNBC reported that Hurricane Ida, which hit the US in late August and affected cities as far apart as New Orleans and New York, could cost as much as $95 billion in damage alone. That would make it the seventh-costliest hurricane since 2000.

Wildfires in the western part of the country burned through the summer and fall. By July, they had burned an area larger than the state of Delaware and their smoke had reached the east coast. AccuWeather's founder and CEO, Joel N. Myers, estimated that the damage from the 2021 wildfire season would cost $70 billion to $90 billion.

The Washington Post noted that the frequency of these disasters could be tied to rising temperatures that are indicative of the climate crisis. Population growth and expansion of infrastructure are adding to the cost.

A report from Climate Central, a climate-research group, found that these costly weather disasters were happening more and more frequently. While the average time between disasters of this scale and cost was 82 days in the 1980s, it has been only 18 days over the past five years.

Camilo Mora, a professor at the University of Hawaii who focuses on the impact of human activities on biodiversity patterns, told The Post that if warming continued, it would increase weather disasters that could have severe effects on human life.

"When you look back 500 million years at the evolution of the planet, one of the worst extinction events in the history of our planet was caused by warming," Mora told The Post. "We can't say exactly if it will be the same, but I can tell you based on the past that it can be pretty bad."

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