Friday, July 29, 2011

A record disaster year in 2011

Molly O'Toole in Reuters: The United States is on a pace in 2011 to set a record for the cost of weather-related disasters and the trend is expected to worsen due to climate change, officials and scientists said on Thursday. "The economic impact of severe weather events is only projected to grow," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told a hearing. "We are not prepared. Our weather events are getting worse, catastrophic in fact."

The United States has seen eight weather disasters this year exceeding $1 billion each in damage, and the annual hurricane season has hardly begun, said Kathryn Sullivan, deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The record is nine in a single year, in 2008. But April alone saw separate tornado, wildfire, flood and drought disasters.

...The cost of weather-disaster damages has climbed past $32 billion for 2011, according to NOAA estimates. The agency also projects that water flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from record flooding will create the largest-ever "dead zone" from pollutants led by run-off from agricultural chemicals, threatening the $2.8 billion commercial and recreational fishing industries.

"Every weather event that happens nowadays takes place in the context of the changes in the background climate system," University of Illinois scientist Donald Wuebbles, who worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the panel. "So nothing is entirely 'natural' anymore," he said...

Smoke from the Encino#2 wildfire near San Angelo, Texas, just one of the wildfires that scorched the southwestern United States in 2011. Taken from the Texas Bank Sports Complex by DCBS18, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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