NOAA counted 18 distinct climate extremes in the United States in 2022, costing Americans over $165 billion and killing at least 474 people.
2022 wasn’t the hottest year on record (that was 2020), or the wettest (2018), but it was among the wildest. Eighteen climate events that cost at least $1 billion in damages to property, infrastructure, or human life scattered themselves over the country, from droughts to floods to hurricanes to fires. That metric, the cost of an event, is what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses as a quick and dirty measure of how bad human-caused climate change is striking back.
“People are seeing the impacts of a changing climate system where they live, work and play on a regular basis,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said at a Tuesday press conference. “With a changing climate buckle up. More extreme events are expected.”
Included in 2022 was Hurricane Ian smashing across Florida and into the Carolinas with unprecedented flooding, a drought in the Mississippi River basin which stopped up important cargo traffic, and a hammer-blow of a winter storm right before Christmas. 2022 also saw the latter third of a 119 week drought across over 40% of the country, more than double the previous longest drought.
“Climate change is supercharging many of these extremes that can lead to billion-dollar disasters,” said NOAA applied climatologist and economist Adam Smith, who calculates the economic footprint of the disasters. He also points out that more and more people are building in harm’s way, with new beachside development and lower construction standards.
“Research is showing that these extreme heat events are also likely to become the new normal,” said NOAA climate scientist Stephanie Herring weather conference. She also makes a point of observing a high number of dangerous heat events last year in countries like India and Egypt, saying that they will inevitably happen here too.
Photo: Tower Rock on the Mississippi River. Credit: Shutterstock