This Year Has Seen A Record Number of Climate Disasters Costing $1 Billion

The U.S. in 2020 has already seen 16 climate-related disasters that caused more than $1 billion in damage each, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That ties the record shared by 2011 and 2017—after only nine months. The annual average for 2015 to 2019 was 13.8 billion-dollar events a year, more than double the average since 1980.

NOAA’s announcement came as Hurricane Delta, the season’s 25th named storm, battered Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Forecasts show the storm heading toward Louisiana coast next, which will require it to pass across the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters. Higher water temperatures provide fuel to hurricanes, so while Delta lost energy after making landfall in Mexico, it’s predicted to become a major storm again en route to the northern coast. Also this week, an amalgamation of fires that started burning in California in August became the first recorded “gigafire,” covering more than a million of the 4 million-plus acres in the state that have burned so far this year.

The scale and number of cyclones and fires has overshadowed slower-moving events that in a lesser year might have drawn more attention than they have. By the end of September, about 43% of the continental U.S. faced drought, particularly the Northeast and West. It’s the largest area in drought since Sept. 2013, when the West faced a years-long dry spell. Alaska’s Kodiak Island and Hawaii are also in drought. A September freeze in the Northern Plains stranded crops a month sooner than usual. 

Lucknow, IndiaMost polluted air today, in sensor range 0 6 5 4 3 2 0 3 2 1 0 9 0 4 3 2 1 0 .0 9 8 7 6 5 0 2 1 0 9 8 0 5 4 3 2 1 0 3 2 1 0 9 0 2 1 0 9 8 0 6 5 4 3 2 Parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere +0.​94° C Aug. 2020 increase in global temperature vs. 1900s average 0 9 8 7 6 5 0 3 2 1 0 9 0 7 6 5 4 3 Soccer pitches of forest lost this hour, most recent data

$69.​9B Renewable power investment worldwide in Q2 2020 38% Carbon-free net power in the U.K., most recent data -38.​88% Today’s arctic ice area vs. historic average

50,​820 Million metric tons of greenhouse emissions, most recent annual data

As more heat is trapped inside the Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere, the air and water hold more energy to feed storms. Last month was the hottest September on record globally, edging out 2019 and 2016, according to Europe’s Copernicus Climate Service. The U.S. in 2020 has so far been 2.3° Fahrenheit (1.3° Celsius) above the 20th century-average.

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