2011 has established a new benchmark for extreme weather in the U.S. NOAA reports that the U.S. has experienced the most billion dollar weather disasters on record this year. A dozen such events, including a blizzard, deadly tornado outbreaks, historic heat wave and drought, wildfire, and floods, have occurred, resulting in approximately $52 billion in aggregated damages. 2011 blows by 2008, the previous record owner with 9 billion dollar weather disasters.
The Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein notes 2011 has witnessed as many billion dollar disasters as the entire decade of the 1980s. And NOAA’s analysis adjusts for inflation.
NOAA’s billion dollar weather disaster tally may be conservative. Early in November, Wunderground.com meteorologist Jeff Masters’ had estimated there had been 14 such events. In addition to those disasters documented by NOAA, his list included the Northeast snowstorm of October 29 and three others based on an analysis performed by reinsurer AON Benfield:
* Flood damage from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee on September 7
* Two additional severe thunderstorm/tornado outbreaks, from April 19-21 and June 16-22
National Weather Service director Jack Hayes discusses the record-breaking year for extreme weather in the U.S.
NOAA’s revised list includes the June severe weather outbreak above but neither the October 29 snowstorm, the April 19-21 severe thunderstorm/tornado outbreak nor the flood damage from Lee.
It’s possible NOAA’s list may grow. The agency says it’s still analyzing the damage from some of these events:
NOAA contines to collect and assess data regarding several other extreme events that occurred this year including the pre-Halloween winter storm that impacted the Northeast, and the wind/flood damage from Tropical Storm Lee. Currently, these events are not over the $1B threshold using the available data.
Here’s NOAA’s full list of 2011 billion dollar weather disasters:
Texas, New Mexico, Arizona Wildfires Spring-Fall 2011
Hurricane Irene August 20-29, 2011
Upper Midwest Flooding Summer, 2011
Mississippi River flooding Spring-Summer, 2011
Southern Plains/Southwest Drought and Heatwave Spring-Fall, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather June 18-22, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes May 22-27, 2011
Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest Tornadoes April 25-28, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes April 14-16, 2011
Southeast/Midwest Tornadoes April 8-11, 2011
Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes April 4-5
Groundhog Day Blizzard Jan 29-Feb 3, 2011
NOAA’s dataset of billion dollar weather events dates back to 1980, so it’s a somewhat limited series. Nevertheless, there’s no doubting 2011 has distinguished itself as an extraordinary year for extreme weather in at least the last 31 years in the U.S.