Losses and Costs Climate Change Continue Growing in 2016 Near Record Levels of Warmth Again Recorded
A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that 2016 ranked as the second warmest on record for the United States, finishing the year with an average temperature 2.9 degrees warmer than the 20th century average.
According to the annual report, 2016 came just short of beating 2012, the current record-holder of warmest year in measures that go back 122 years.
With steamy nights, sticky days and torrential downpours, last year also went down as one of the warmest and wildest weather years on record in the United States.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that 2016 was the second hottest year in the U.S. as Alaska warmed dramatically and nighttime temperatures set a record.
The U.S. also notched its second highest number of weather disasters that cost at least $1 billion in damage: 15 separate ones together caused $46 billion in damage and 138 deaths.
Later this month, global temperatures will be calculated, giving climate scientists more information as they monitor the planet’s warming.
The regular tally of the nation’s weather year shows that even on a smaller scale — the U.S. is only 2 percent of the Earth’s area — climate change is becoming more noticeable even amid the natural variations that play such a large role in day to day weather.
The average temperature last year in the Lower 48 states was 54.9 degrees (12.7 Celsius), nearly 3 degrees above the 20th Century average of 52 (11.1 Celsius). It’s the 20th consecutive year that the United States was warmer than normal.
Only 2012’s 55.3 (12.9 Celsius) degrees was warmer in the 122 years of U.S. record keeping.
“It is certainly a data point on a trend that we’ve seen: a general warming,” said Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina.. “All five of the warmest years on record have been since 1998 in the U.S.”
While 2016 didn’t quite break the overall heat record, Alaska had its hottest year by far, beating 2014’s old record by 1.6 degrees. Also, the nation’s nighttime low temperature was the hottest on record, a key issue because it hurts agriculture, costs more in air conditioning and makes it harder for people’s bodies to recover from the summer heat, Arndt said.
NOAA also found that it was the fourth consecutive wetter than normal year in the nation, even as droughts remained nasty in some places. “We are seeing bigger doses of rain in smaller amounts of time,” Arndt said.
That led to four different inland floods that cost $1 billion or more, including heavy sudden flooding in Houston, West Virginia and twice in Louisiana. That’s the most NOAA has seen, twice as many as the previous high for inland flooding.
Hotter summer nights, warming farther north and concentrated bursts of heavy rain amid drought are all signs of man-made climate change long predicted by scientists, Arndt said.
“The fact that the U.S. has seen the two warmest years (2012 and 2016) within the past five years cannot be explained by chance. It bears the fingerprint of human-caused climate change,” Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said in an email.
Last year’s 15 billion-dollar weather disasters count is second to 2011, when there were 16 in the United States. NOAA’s billion-dollar disaster calculations — which are adjusted for inflation — goes back to 1980. In addition to flooding, other billion dollar disasters included Hurricane Matthew, wildfires, drought, tornadoes and hail storms.
Other records in 2016: Georgia and the U.S. Southeast as a whole had their warmest years, and the Upper Midwest had its wettest year.
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP SCIENCE WRITER WASHINGTON — Jan 9, 2017
Georgia and the southeastern U.S. not only experienced extreme warm weather, wildfires spread across 82 square miles located in Northeastern Georgia and North Carolina, while 13 people died from a fired that swept into Gatlinburg in the neighboring state of Tennessee.
Dan Chapman, a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said the area’s extreme dry weather and recent fires “leave little doubt that Georgia’s “exceptional” drought — the third in a decade — is taking a heavy toll. Many climatologists and meteorologists say get used to it: A warming climate translates into higher Southern temperatures and less rain.”
In 2015, there were 1,345,500 fires reported in the United States. These fires caused 3,280 civilian deaths, 15,700 civilian injuries, and $14.3 billion in property damage.