US Loses Billions to 'Weather Whiplash'

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Common Dreams

US Loses Billions to 'Weather Whiplash'

Following extreme storms and drought, the US alone accounted for nearly 70 percent of global losses in 2012

by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Superstorm Sandy, widespread drought, flooding in the Midwest, devastating tornadoes and, most recently, early season wildfires on the west coast—it seems as if Americans can't catch a break with the weather and they are paying the price.

According to a new report—Natural Catastrophes in 2012 Dominated by U.S. Weather Extremes—published Wednesday by the environmental research organization World Watch Institute, of the enormous global cost of $170 billion due to natural catastrophes last year, the United States alone accounted for 69 percent of overall losses.

Focusing specifically on the "insured losses" as a result of these events, the report found that at 92 percent, the United States accounted for nearly all of the $70 billion global hit.

The pattern of crazy weather extremes—referred to as "weather whiplash"—has dominated US forecasts in recent years and caused the country to pay a high toll.

The report notes specifically that,

with regard to insured losses, a particularly striking feature in the climatological events category was that droughts accounted for 28 percent. This is well above the long-term average of 7 percent and was due to the severe drought that primarily afflicted the US Midwest during the year, causing immense agricultural losses.

The extreme drought that plagued much of the US throughout 2012, and which has continued into this year, was alone responsible for overall losses of $20 billion.

Globally, 93 percent of the 905 natural catastrophes in 2012 were weather-related disasters and, according to the report, their devastation is growing. "Since 1980, geophysical events have been more or less stable," they write, "whereas weather-related events have increased 2.8- to 3.6-fold." 

Further, of the overall global losses due to natural catastrophes, in 2012 nearly 60 percent were attributable to increasingly severe storms, such as Sandy, compared with the long-term average of 39 percent.

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