Eleven major weather disasters ranging from hurricanes to floods cost $110 billion in 2012, a number the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is calling the second most expensive year ever.
Analysts say the evidence leaves no doubt that weather is becoming more extreme.
There’s also a human toll; in 2012, the report states, natural weather disasters claimed some 130 lives.
Predictably, the costliest year was 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and an ensuing flood ravaged New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. That year, there was nearly $160 billion in damages.
“The two major drivers of the damage costs in 2012 were Sandy at approximately $65 billion and the yearlong drought at approximately $30 billion,” the NCDC said in its report. “Sandy’s large size, with tropical storm force winds extending nearly 500 miles from the center, led to record storm surge, large-scale flooding, wind damage, and mass power outages along much of the East Coast.”
The NCDC almost pointed to what many might think to be an unlikely cause of disaster: Drought. Wildfires burned some 9 million acres across the country, according to the report.
“The yearlong drought, which affected more than half the country for the majority of 2012, was the largest drought extent in the United States since the 1930s. U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Disaster Declarations reached more than 2,600 of the Nation’s 3,143 counties. While drought impacts are often most costly to agricultural centers, their conditions also led to several devastating wildfires that burned over 9 million acres nationwide during 2012.”