Figure 1. Billion-dollar U.S. weather disasters in 2011 as officially recognized by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in early December, 2011. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.
The official tally of billion-dollar U.S. weather disasters in 2011 is now twelve, announced NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco in a speech given yesterday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. This is the greatest number of billion-dollar weather disasters in U.S. history, besting the record of nine set in 2008. Dr. Lubchenco said that at least two additional disasters, the October 29 snowstorm in the Northeast, and the flooding from Tropical Storm Lee in early September, may surpass the $1 billion mark, by the time all damage estimates are tabulated. This would bring the 2011 tally to fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters, a truly astonishing level of destruction for one year. The damages from the twelve official billion-dollars disasters is $52 billion, making the 2011 the 4th most expensive year for billion-dollar weather disasters in history. Damage estimates from natural disasters are fraught with uncertainty, and it is not usual for different insurance companies to give damage estimates a factor of two different for the same disaster. Insurance broker AON Benfield estimates that there have been at least sixteen billion-dollar weather disasters in the U.S. so far in 2011, according to their November Catastrophe Recap report. Included in their tally, but not in NOAA's, are severe weather outbreaks on July 10 - 14 and August 18 -19 in the Plains that caused $1.25 billion and $1.1 billion in damage, respectively, plus $1 billion in damage from Tropical Storm Lee's floods, and $3 billion in damage from the October 28 - 30 snowstorm in the Northeast.
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