Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

2017 costliest year in USA history for natural disasters

During 2017, the USA experienced 16 different billion-dollar weather and climate disaster incidents.

In fact, according to a new report by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 2017 was the most expensive year on record for natural disasters in the country. And Hurricane Irma, which lashed Florida in September, was the third-costliest disaster in 2017 with $50 billion damage, according to NOAA.

Events adding to the total include one drought, two floods, one freeze, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and one wildfire, the NOAA said.

Globally, the human impact of these disasters has been particularly tragic with the total toll from 2017 disasters estimated at more than 11,000 people dead or missing. They also keep track of the cost of the damages that were done natural disasters.

The costs of 2017 disasters, at $306.2 billion dollars cumulatively, set a new United States record that blew past previous totals.

Hurricane Maria, which devastated the Caribbean, including the USA territory of Puerto Rico, caused $90 billion in damage, while Hurricane Irma, which hit the Caribbean islands and Florida in September, caused $50 billion worth of damage.

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The staggering storm damage shattered the record $215 in losses set in 2005, CNN noted, when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the Gulf Coast. Last year's final price tag also ties 2011 for the most billion-dollar weather events in a single year.

The previous record was nearly $215 billion in 2005, due in large part to major hurricanes like Katrina and Wilma. It shows that the continental USA had its third warmest year on record and, for the third consecutive year, every state across the contiguous U.S. and Alaska was warmer that average.

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"We can expect extreme weather events and economic losses and costs associated with them to continue increasing unless we make dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions", McCarthy said.

Three of the five most expensive hurricanes in USA history hit a year ago. Hurricane Harvey carried a cost of roughly $125 billion. Other large costs came from tornadoes, droughts, severe weather events, flooding and other causes. While NOAA did not explicitly state that the direct cause of these disasters was global warming, there is evidence that climate change exacerbates disasters like flooding and wildfires. "That's clearly related to an increase in heat-related disasters that we've seen". 2016 and 2012 were the only warmer years.

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