A new government report shows just how frequent and costly natural disasters have become in the United States.
According to scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. has seen more billion-dollar disasters in the first seven months of 2023 than in any year since 1980, when the agency first began tracking these events. So far this year, the NOAA has tallied 15 individual weather and climate disasters, each with losses exceeding $1 billion.
These 15 disasters include 13 severe weather events, one winter storm, and one flooding event. According to the NOAA, the disasters are responsible for 113 fatalities and have produced nearly $40 billion in damages.
Millions of Americans across several states have experienced severe weather events this year, with many researchers pointing a finger at greenhouse emissions as the primary driver behind the changing climate.
A team of international researchers at World Weather Attribution tracked the effects of human-induced climate change on last month's simultaneous heat waves across three continents. They found that heat waves of that intensity could not have happened without the current levels of greenhouse gases in the air, and the high temperatures encountered in the U.S. and in Europe would be "virtually impossible" without human-driven warming.
"Unless the world rapidly stops burning fossil fuels, these events will become even more common and the world will experience heatwaves that are even hotter and longer-lasting," researchers wrote. "A heatwave like the recent ones would occur every 2-5 years."
July was officially named the world's hottest month on record, with temperatures in the U.S. averaging 75.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 2.1 degrees above average. Arizona, Florida, Maine, and New Mexico recorded their warmest Julys ever, while another 13 states experienced one of the top-10 warmest Julys on record.
Phoenix also recorded an average temperature of 102.8 degrees, including 31 straight days in which temperatures surpassed 110 degrees. That streak broke the previous record of 18 days set in 1974.
In terms of July rainfall totals in the U.S., the NOAA reported several disparities that can also be linked to climate change.
While average precipitation nationwide was on par with historic levels, Arizona, Idaho and Minnesota each experienced their third-driest Julys on record. But nine other states — mostly in the Northeastern U.S. — experienced one of their top-10 wettest Julys on record.
Residents of Vermont are still recovering from severe floods after catastrophic storms dumped two months worth of rain in just a 48-hour period. According to initial estimates, devastation from floods has impacted more than 4,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in the state, putting the price tag on that catastrophic event at well over $1 billion.
And as extreme weather events are expected to increase in the coming years due to climate change, so will the costs associated with a warming globe.
"Extreme weather events such as heat waves cost the economy billions," said Ray Perryman, CEO of the economic research firm The Perryman Group. "Over a long period of time, persistent temperature increases will have even larger and more profound economic consequences."
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