Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A wildfire is seen near Getty Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 28, 2019. (Photo: Qian Weizhong/Xinhua via Getty)

With 14 'Billion-Dollar Disasters' and Record-Breaking Heat in Alaska and Across South, 2019 Was a Year of Climate Extremes for US

"Americans are put at risk by the serious consequences of the climate crisis."

Julia Conley

Underscoring the need for urgent climate action, a new report on the climate of the United States in 2019 sheds light on numerous weather and temperature extremes that were observed throughout the year and the record amounts of money spent on weather disasters.

Alaska was among the states which recorded unusually high temperatures in 2019, according to an annual summary released Wednesday by NOAA ahead of its full U.S. Climate Report, which is scheduled to be released next week.

The state had its warmest year ever recorded, with a statewide average temperature of 32.2º Fahrenheit—more than 6º above the long-term average temperature. The city of Anchorage had its first 90º day on record.

The year continued a recent trend for Alaska; four of the last six years have been the state's warmest on record.

Record-breaking heat was also recorded last year throughout the Southeast, with both Georgia and North Carolina experiencing their hottest year ever. Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia also had their second-hottest year.

The economic burdens associated with the climate crisis also became apparent in 2019; the cost of repairing damage and supporting communities which suffered extreme weather events reached $45 billion, more than $1 billion over the yearly average.

Almost half of that cost was due to flooding events, three of which cost more than $1 billion.

In 2019, the U.S. had 14 "billion-dollar disasters," each costing at least $1 billion. In addition to the floods, eight severe storms, two tropical cyclones, and one wildfire topped $1 billion.

According to NOAA, the number of billion-dollar disasters rose drastically over the past decade. Even after adjusting for inflation, the U.S. spent at least $1 billion to repair the damage of 119 disasters in the 2010s, compared with just 59 in the preceding decade.

NOAA's ranking of yearly climate extremes placed 2019 in the top third for the 110-year period the agency has on record. The U.S. Climate Extremes Index was 14% higher than average last year, with warm extremes recorded across the Southeast, cold extremes throughout the Midwest, and precipitation extremes throughout much of the Eastern United States. Overall, 2019 was the second-wettest year on record in the U.S., with scientists recording nearly 35 inches of precipitation—4.84 inches above average.

The agency's report summary garnered the attention of the House Science Committee.

"Americans are put at risk by the serious consequences of the climate crisis," tweeted the committee. "We must work together to address this global threat."

The full U.S. Climate Report will be released January 14.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Senate Barely Approves Scaled Back Legislation on Climate, Taxes, Healthcare

But thanks to Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), there was a huge, last-minute win for the private equity and hedge fund industries

Common Dreams staff ·

'What the Hell is Wrong With Them': GOP Senators Kill $35 Cap on Insulin

'Republicans told millions of Americans who use insulin to go to hell.'

Common Dreams staff ·

World Faces 'Loaded Gun' on Hiroshima's 77th Anniversary

“We must ask: What have we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city?”

Common Dreams staff ·

'Extremely Concerned': Shelling of Europe's Biggest Nuclear Power Plant More Worrying Than Chernobyl

Ukraine said parts of the facility were "seriously damaged" by Russian military strikes.

Common Dreams staff ·

'Backsliding on Democracy': Indiana Governor Signs Extreme Abortion Ban Bill

'The extremist lawmakers who forced this bill through a special session clearly could not care less about what their constituents want or need.'

Common Dreams staff ·

Common Dreams Logo