Sunday 21 April 2019

Weather disasters costing over €1bn now frequent across USA

Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston
Impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston

Brian O'Sullivan

In the year that President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris accord and downplayed global warming as a security threat, the US received a harsh reminder of the perils of the rise in the planet's temperature: a destructive rash of hurricanes, fires and floods.

The country recorded 15 weather events each costing $1bn or more through early October, one short of the record 16 in 2011, according to the federal government's National Centres for Environmental Information in North Carolina. And the tally doesn't include the recent wildfires in southern California.

In many cases, weather broke records. In others, it was just downright odd, like the February warm spell that sent temperatures to a record 22C in Burlington, Vermont.

"When all is said and done, this year is going to be one of the worst years on record for US damages," said Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Among the most devastating events were hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and wildfires in northern California. The killer storms caused economic losses of more than $210bn in the US and across the Caribbean, and about $100bn in insured damages, according to Mark Bove, a senior research scientist with Munich Reinsurance America in New Jersey.

Many of the events can be explained by historical weather patterns. The most calamitous, though, showed signs of a warming climate, including Hurricane Harvey, which dropped 60 inches of rain on the Texas coast.

Those who are sceptical that climate change is a phenomenon, or that human activity is to blame, contend that dramatic weather this year was happenstance or part of larger, regular meteorological swings.

Trump, who has in the past dismissed man-made climate change as a hoax, saidin June that the US would leave the Paris climate accord, saying it favors other nations at the expense of US workers.

Irish Independent

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