A Record Year for Billion-Dollar Disasters

The growing trend between 1980 and 2010 is obviously that major natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more costly, and that trend has been unrelenting in 2011, with a new record being set for the number of billion-dollar disasters with two months still remaining in the year.

It’s time to add another billion-dollar weather disaster to the growing 2011 total of these costly disasters: the extraordinary early-season Northeast U.S. snowstorm of October 29, which dumped up to 32 inches of snow, brought winds gusts of 70 mph to the coast, and killed at least 22 people…. The damage estimate in Connecticut alone is $3 billion, far more than the damage Hurricane Irene did to the state. Hundreds of thousands still remain without power a week after the storm, with full electricity not expected to be restored until Monday.

The October 29 snow storm brings the 2011 tally of U.S. billion-dollar weather disasters to fourteen, thoroughly smashing the previous record of nine such disasters, set in 2008. Between 1980 – 2010, the U.S. averaged 3.5 of these weather disasters per year. Through August, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) estimated that ten weather disasters costing at least $1 billion had hit the U.S., at total cost of up to $45 billion. However, the October 29 snow storm brings us up to eleven billion-dollar disasters, and a new disaster analysis done by global reinsurance company AON Benfield adds three more.

The report from Weather Underground continues on to cite major flooding in the northeast following Tropical Storm Lee, and separate tornado outbreaks in April in June, bringing the total number of billion-dollar disasters in 2011 to 14. And with two months remaining in the year on the outset of snow-season, it's anyone's guess if that number could rise again. What is being labeled as a "Life-Threatening Superstorm" packing the threat for "widespread damage" is bearing down, no pun intended, on the coast of Alaska as of right now.

These are not numbers inflated by climate-change fearmongers or liberal conspirators. They're official damage numbers from insurance companies. And while none of these events can be directly tied to climate change on a case by case basis, there is no doubt that these events are becoming more frequent.

Ultimately, hitting people in their pocket-book may be what it takes to change opinions on climate change, disaster preparedness, and infrastructure spending. Because these disasters do not discriminate between Republican-controlled and Democratically-controlled states, and no voting block is immune to the economic consequences of doing nothing.

via Joe Romm of ThinkProgress