The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—the agency that goes by the user-friendly handle of NOAA (pronounced "Noah")—broke some news today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco announced that by the agency's calculations, the United States has suffered a dozen "billion-dollar" weather events this year. That's a record, beating out the previous title-holder, 2008, when nine billion-dollar events went into the books. Cumulative losses from weather events this year have topped $50 billion, NOAA says.
Lubchenco said some of the nation's devastating weather events this year appear to be related to climate change.
"I think people have to appreciate how very bizarre the weather has been this year," she said. "And it’s pretty clear that for some of those events like heat waves, droughts, really big intensive rainfall events—those we can connect the dots to climate change pretty convincingly."
Among this year's dozen billion-dollar weather disasters: half a dozen tornado outbreaks, including a twister that killed about 160 people in Joplin, Mo., and a wave of twisters that killed about 320 people in Alabama; the epic flooding in New England triggered by the remnants of Hurricane Irene; widespread flooding throughout the Missouri and Lower Mississippi river basins; and the ongoing drought afflicting much of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Kansas.