By many measures, 2011 was the most extreme weather year for the United States since reliable record-keeping began in the 19th century -- and the costs have been enormous. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2011 set a record for the most billion-dollar disasters in a single year. There were 12, breaking the old record of nine set in 2009. The aggregate damage from these 12 events totals at least $52 billion, NOAA found.
Severe weather across much of the nation has raised the question of whether global warming has already begun to influence shorter-term weather patterns, raising the specter of even more extreme years to come as global temperatures continue to rise.
According to climate studies, the short answer is yes: the new climate environment created by global warming is making some extreme events, particularly heat waves and heavy rain, more likely to occur and more intense when they do. Climate models have more difficulty predicting how climate change may be influencing other types of extremes, such as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but a warming climate provides more fuel to these events in the form of increased water vapor and heat in the atmosphere.
Throughout 2011, searing heat waves, parching drought, deadly tornadoes, blizzards, and floods cost billions of dollars in damage, affected millions of lives, and killed more than a thousand people across the United States.
Climate Central examined extreme weather events from coast to coast to determine the 10 states that were clobbered the worst. Texas tops that list, with a costly -- and deadly -- combination of intense drought, a punishing heat wave, the worst wildfires in state history, and plenty of tornadoes. Rounding out the top 10 were Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Jersey.
Climate Central's analysis factored the death toll in each state, damage costs, the disruption caused to daily life, and how unusual the events were compared with what transpires in an average year.
- North Carolina
- New Jersey