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Weather and climate disasters cost U.S. $110 billion in 2012

Several fires spread across the U.S. due to the drought in 2012. David McNew/Getty Images

Last year was the second-costliest year in the United States since 1980 for weather and climate disasters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center.

In 2012, 11 weather and climate events each cost $1 billion in damages. Hurricane Sandy cost $65 billion and the drought cost $30 billion, bringing the total to $110 billion.

The costliest year in the U.S. was 2005, with $160 billion in damages due to four major hurricanes.

Weather and climate disasters resulted in the second-costliest year for the U.S. in 2012. (Courtesy NOAA). NOAA/National Climatic Data Center

The events of 2012 included seven severe weather and tornado events, two tropical cyclones, drought and fires related to the drought. In total, the events killed 300 people. In 2011, billion-dollar disasters caused losses around $60 billion. In 2010, it was only $10 billion.

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“Over the last few decades, there has been an increase in the number of disasters inflicting at least a billion of dollars in damage,” said Adam Smith, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center.

One of the main events behind the high economic costs was Hurricane Sandy which cost approximately $65 billion. Sandy turned into a storm and moved up the east coast of the U.S., extending about 800 kms from the centre. It caused widespread flooding, storm surge and power outages. Restoration along some parts of the coast is still ongoing.

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“The years 2011 and 2012 were extreme years climatologically-speaking, as the several types of all-time records were shattered,” Smith said. “We experienced historic tornado outbreaks and large-scale flooding in 2011, historic drought and heatwaves in both 2011 and 2012, and tropical cyclones Irene and Sandy, creating widespread damage across the Northeast. The severity of these events was further focused by the growing amount of property that exists in harm’s way.”

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The drought affected more than half the country for a large part of 2012 and was the largest in extent since the 1930s. The fires resulting from the drought burned over 9 million acres across the country.