Hurricane Idalia was a raging storm that ripped across the Big Bend region of Florida in the middle of last month, before ravaging communities across Georgia as well as the Carolinas Thankfully, it didn’t turn into the cataclysmic storm forecasters feared days earlier.
But the Category 3 storm brought widespread water damage to certain communities, left an expensive trail of destruction and established an insidious spot in the records.
Idalia was one of the 23rd “billion dollar” weather disaster to hit this year in United States this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Monday. It surpassed previously set records of 22, which were established in the year 2020. There are still four months to go this year, and the possibility of even more catastrophic weather to come.
“It takes a lot to surprise me with all these extremes, but this year has been a surprise,” said Adam Smith, a NOAA scientist and economist who studies climate-related and weather-related catastrophes.
They aren’t getting any slower’: emergence of massive disasters
The list includes an astonishing number of severe storms which have devastated large areas of the country including tornadoes that destroyed homes and businesses throughout all of the South as well as the Midwest to devastating hailstorms that struck Minnesota as well as Colorado. It contains atmospheric river systems that have poured massive amounts of rain on California and extreme floods in Vermont and the devastating wildfires that destroyed Lahaina in Maui. Hawaiian Island of Maui.
According to NOAA’s statistics that has been released, the events thus far this year have triggered 253 deaths, both direct and indirect, and caused greater than $57.6 billion in damages -an amount that will increase as authorities continue to track losses caused by Hurricane Hilary in the southern part of California and the drought that lasted across both the Midwest along with the South.
NOAA analyzes the impact of disasters dating back to 1980 using a variety of private and public information including insurance payouts as well as infrastructure damages to determine the economic impact of these events. In the past there has been a noticeable rise in frequency as well as price of such disasters across the nation.
Although the United States has experienced an average of around eight billion dollars catastrophes each year over the last four decades, over the last five years, that number has risen to almost 18 disasters per year. In the past six years have seen losses that exceeded $100 billion when adjusted to inflation.
Smith recalls thinking of the 22 billion-dollar disasters of 2020 -an year that witnessed devastating and deadly forest fires in the West and numerous hurricanes, like Laura which pounded into the Gulf Coast — would probably not be eclipsed any time very soon.
“I thought, ‘That record is probably going to stand for a while,'” said the singer. “Just 3 years later, we are shattering a record that had shattered previous records.”
The reason for the increase in the number of disasters that cost billions of dollars are a result of multiple reasons, such as factors like the fact Americans continue to travel to the most vulnerable areas and the constant development in these locations has put more assets at risk.
However, as scientists have said that there is no doubt the fact that climate change been a key factor in climate change.
“The climate has already changed, and neither the built environment nor the response systems are keeping up with the change,” W. Craig Fugate who was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Obama administration, stated via email.
July was the warmest month in the 174-year history of NOAA in which heat waves spread across large areas of the United States and around all over the world. Researchers have repeatedly demonstrated how warming temperatures are creating storms that are supercharging and causing floods that are so intense they overwhelm infrastructure.
The drier landscapes are more vulnerable to wildfire. Warmer oceans provide the conditions that allow for rapid strengthening of hurricanes.
The more frequent occurrence of natural disasters also means less time to plan for each. A study conducted last fall by the non-profit research organization Climate Central found that from 2017 until 2021, the United States experienced an average of a billion dollars in disasters every 18 days, on average, while there were the 82 days between these events during the 1980s.
In many areas, Fugate said, what the building codes are in place frequently plays a significant role in determining how destructive an event can be.
“It is really the story of shortsighted cost versus longer-term savings,” the author wrote. “Many fight increasing building codes as too costly and making house unaffordable, but on the other hand, we see the difference between what remains after a storm and what is destroyed.”
The rising number of natural disasters has forced local authorities and common Americans alike to confront the unexpected financial burdens these catastrophes could cause. Congress in recent times has approved a record amount of money for modernizing our infrastructure of our nation, however many areas of the nation are still struggling with old pipes roads, roadways and other systems that were designed for a different century — and a different climate.
At present, Smith remains concerned about the future of 2023. In the past, many of the most expensive disasters — huge hurricanes, massive wildfires and continuous droughts — are usually seen in the second portion of this year.
He believes that after the record-breaking year 2023 to date there is a chance to see a pause. However, the data suggests any break in billion-dollar catastrophes isn’t likely to last long.
“We’ve got more exposure plus more vulnerability plus the influence of climate change supercharging many of these extremes,” he added. “The trends in frequency and cost for most of these different hazards continues to rise, and I don’t see those trends changing anytime soon.”