Extreme weather events in 2021 cost the US over $29bn, says NOAA report

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Taxpayers in the US have lost over $29 billion because of extreme weather events in the first six months of this year itself, according to a new report.

The US has already faced at least eight weather and climate disasters in these six months, with each disaster costing over $1bn, said the report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

These include four severe storms involving tornadoes and hail and high wind damage, two flooding events, one winter storm with a deep freeze, and one heatwave-influenced drought hitting different parts of the country.

The report noted that the costliest weather crisis was the winter storm and cold wave in the northwest, central and eastern states that lasted for 10 days from 10-19 February, incurring direct losses of approximately $20 billion.

Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, endured below-freezing temperatures that led to the death of 172 people. The prolonged arctic air caused widespread power outages in Texas that left more than 10 million people without power at its peak.

The report also said it was the costliest winter storm event recorded in the country.

File: A mailbox is seen frozen in a snow-covered neighbourhood in Waco, Texas as severe winter weather conditions over the last few days has forced road closures and power outages over the state on 17 February 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
File: A mailbox is seen frozen in a snow-covered neighbourhood in Waco, Texas as severe winter weather conditions over the last few days has forced road closures and power outages over the state on 17 February 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

The second-most costly extreme weather disaster affected Texas and Oklahoma, where tornadoes, high wind and localised flooding on 27 and 28 April cost the country around $2.4bn.

Significantly, the report has not yet estimated the damage from the ongoing heatwave that has swept across the Pacific northwest and affected several states, including Oregon and Washington.

Elaborating on the climate crisis observed during the year, the report noted that the US recorded the hottest June in 127 years. The average June temperature across the country was 72.6F, about 4.2 degrees above normal, according to the report.

Some states recorded extreme rainfall as well, the report noted, adding that the average downpour for June matched the historical average. “South Dakota saw its driest June on record, while Mississippi had its second wettest,” it said.

The average year-to-date temperature for 2021 was 49.3F, about 1.7 degrees above the 20th century average, making it the third warmest year, said the report.

Since 1980, the US has sustained over 298 weather and climate disasters where the overall damages reached or exceeded $1 billion for each, according to the report, adding that the combined cost of these events exceeded $1.975 trillion.

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