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2021’s biggest climate and weather disasters cost the U.S. $145 billion – here’s what climate science says about them in 5 essential reads

2021’s biggest climate and weather disasters cost the U.S. $145 billion – here’s what climate science says about them in 5 essential reads

Map of costliest U.S. weather and climate disasters of 2021

The disasters just kept coming in 2021, from Hurricane Ida’s destruction across Louisiana and the Northeast to devastating wildfires in the West and damaging storms, tornadoes and floods. The drought affected nearly half of the United States, and extreme temperatures spikes disrupted power supplies when people needed heating or cooling.

All in all, the most expensive U.S. climate and weather disasters of the year cost an estimated US$145 billion in damageThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Jan. 10, 2022 that at least 688 people had been killed.

It was the third-most expensive record year.

2021 was also One of the hottestYears globally and the Fourth hottest year in the U.S.In 127 years of record-keeping. Not all weather events are the sameGlobal warming is responsible for the increase in global warming Rising temperatures have an impact on the climateYou can do it in ways that Heat waves can be amplifiedand droughts can lead to severe storms. A lot of that temperature rise is due to global warming. The greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion are responsible for causing the formation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere..

Map of costliest U.S. weather and climate disasters of 2021


Scientists offered explanations for the effects of climate change on the unfolding disasters. Here’s what they said about some of the costliest disasters of 2021.

Extreme rainfall in east, drought west

One thing that stood out during the 2021 disasters was the sharp precipitation divide in the U.S.

Extreme downpours caused flash floods in Tennessee in August that swept away homes, vehicles, and killed 20 people. A few days later, Hurricane Ida’s remnants crossed the country and struck New York City. Record-breaking rainfallThe submerged subway stations, and basement apartments killed dozens more.

The damage caused by the western drought was more difficult to assess. Extreme dryness A key hydroelectric power station was shut downCalifornia for five months Ranches and farms harmedIt was the catalyst for the first federal election. Colorado River water restrictionsAs important reservoirs experience a drop in levels

Image of Lake Mead shows intake towers far above the water level and light rock around edges indicate low water.
The Hoover Dam intake towers and ‘bathtub ring’ along the edges of the Colorado River’s Lake Mead shows how far the water level has fallen.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Global warming is a good thing Both types of precipitation extremes can be fuelledDayton University climate scientist Shuang-Ye Wu explained.

“Higher temperature increases evaporation from Earth’s surface, drying out vegetation and soils, which can fuel wildfires. It also increases the atmosphere’s capacity to hold moisture at a rate of about 7% per degree Celsius that the planet warms. Global precipitation becomes more severe as more moisture evaporates. Expected to increase, but this increase is not uniform,” Wu wrote.

As the planet warms, wet regions will get wetter, while dry areas will get drier, she stated.

Continue reading:
The devastation caused by Colorado fires has ended a year of climate catastrophes in 2021. One side of the country is too wet and the other is dangerously dry.

No. 1: Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida It exploded from a weak hurricane into a Category 4 storm above warm water.The most costly disaster of 2021 was the Gulf of Mexico. It caused extensive damage in Louisiana, and then in the Northeast. Estimated at $75 billion.

University of Miami Oceanographer Nick ShayIt was explained that the storm passed over a large body of warm water in Gulf of Mexico that had formed from the Loop Current. That warm pool’s heat, extending Down about 480 feetIts strength was fueled by it.

Warm water is the fuel for hurricanes. warming surface temperaturesthey will be affected. According to climate models, Atlantic hurricanes could be a possibility. The intensity and rainfall will increase., but there won’t necessarily be more of the storms.

Continue reading:
Hurricane Ida turned into a monster thanks to a giant warm patch in the Gulf of Mexico – here’s what happened

Map of surface temperatures
Ida’s route to Louisiana passed over very warm water. This scale measures the maximum depth at which temperatures are at least 78 F (26 C), which is considered to be a threshold for hurricane development.
University of Miami, CC BY -ND

No. No.

An Arctic blast sent snow, ice, and freezing temperatures through the country’s middle in February. The Texas cold blast quickly became a human catastrophe. The cold weather overwhelmed Texas’ power grid, freezing componentsat natural gas plants and slowing down natural gas supplies. An estimated 69% of the state was thrown out of power, and NOAA accounted for 226 deaths. State officials have attributed 246 deathsTo the storm.

This cold wave was the most expensive U.S. disaster in 2021, costing approximately $24 billion.

Shoppers, some bundled up against the cold, wait in line
Texas’ February 2021 temperatures plummeted into the teens, knocking out power supply for a population not used to cold.
Thomas Shea / AFP via Getty Images

It may seem counterintuitive but it is actually quite possible Arctic temperatures are rapidly warmingThis type of southward dip in jet stream can be triggered by strong winds at the boundary of warmer and colder air. Research by atmospheric scientists Mathew BarrlowThe University of Massachusetts Lowell Judah CohenMIT It is possible!As Arctic changes are followed by changes to the stratospheric pole vortex, these are followed up by cold waves in North America as well as Asia.

“Our research reinforces two crucial lessons of climate change: First, the change doesn’t have to occur in your backyard to have a big effect on you. Second, the unexpected consequences can be quite severe,” they wrote.

Read more:
How Arctic warming can trigger extreme cold waves like the Texas freeze – a new study makes the connection

See Also
Oil rigs at sea

No. 3: Devastating wildfires

More multibillion-dollar disasters were caused by the West’s heat and dryness. On December 30, Colorado would normally be covered in snow. Instead, a wildfire was whipped up by powerful winds and ravaged neighborhoods. Boulder County is extremely dry. In a matter hours, nearly 1,000 homes and many businesses were destroyed.

Following devastating fires in California this summer, the blaze was set off by another fire. The total damage caused by the 2021 Western fires was $10.6 billion.

Fire moves through a neighborhood, burning around one house and into another.
The fires that ravaged Boulder County, Colo. were so fast that officials could only evacuate homes.
RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

As the global temperature rises, forest managers must deal with rising wildfire risks and increased costs. Fighting wildfires of immense proportions, like the Caldor and Dixie fires that decimated large swathes of California. Greenville Grizzly FlatsIn 2021, the funds needed to prevent fires such as those caused by lightning will be depleted. Forest thinning and prescribed firesUniversity of California Forest and Fire experts Susan Kocher Ryan Tompkins wrote.

“To manage fires in an era of climate change, where drier, hotter weather creates ideal conditions for burning, experts estimate that the area treated for fuels reduction needs to increase by at least an Order of magnitude,” they said.

Continue reading:
Four ways to avoid future megafires: Moving beyond America’s war against wildfire

What about the tornadoes.

Tornadoes, like the deadly outbreak that created another multibillion-dollar disaster across Kentucky and nearby states in early December, haven’t been clearly connected to global warming, but climate models You can still get some insightAs Central Michigan University meteorology professor John Allen explained.

A man carries suitcases out of the shell of a splintered house
In December, tornadoes destroyed 250 miles of Kentucky and neighboring states by destroying their infrastructure.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“There are certainly signals pointing in the direction of a stormier future,” Allen said, “but how this manifests for tornadoes is an open area of research.”

Read more:
Climate change and tornadoes: What a warming planet means for deadly twisters, and the types of storms that they spawn

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives. It has been updated with NOAA’s disaster map.

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