2012 Weather Extremes Fact Sheet: Year‐to‐Date Review

This year's weather patterns were extreme as well as costly — learn more about which weather events affected the U.S. most.
From World Wildlife Fund
November 6, 2012
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Photo by Fotolia/Denis Zaporozhtsev

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This article originally appeared on www.WorldWildlife.org and is posted with permission from World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

Most Extreme Weather Year on Record 

  • Through November, weather in the contiguous U.S. has been the most extreme on record (1).

The Costliest Year on Record? 

  • According to data assembled by NOAA for the period 1980 through 2011, 2005 was the costliest year, with $187.2 billion (2012 dollars) in damages (Hurricane Katrina alone accounted for $146.3 billion of that) (2,3).
  • WWF estimates that costs from 2012’s 11 largest weather-related disasters in the U.S. will cost between $160 to $235 billion. 2012 has the potential to be the most costly year on record. Last year (2011) broke the record for the number of billion dollar disasters — 14 in all (compared to 11 so far this year) — but was much less costly than this year.

Costliest Weather Disaster in 2012 was not Hurricane Sandy 

  • The costliest weather disaster of 2012 has been the worsening drought, which could reduce Gross Domestic Product (GDP) this year by as much as 1 percent — or by roughly $150 billion (4).
  • Impacts from the drought will spill over into 2013 — which will start with far more serious drought conditions than at the beginning of 2012.
  • As of December 4, over 62 percent of the U.S. was in drought — twice the area in drought a year ago (5). The Seasonal Drought Outlook issued by NOAA today indicates that while conditions will improve in some parts of the U.S., the drought will persist or intensify over most drought-affected areas.

Hottest Year on Record in the U.S. 

  • 2012 is on track to be the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S. According to NOAA today: “It appears virtually certain that 2012 will surpass the current record (1998, 54.3 degrees Fahrenheit) as the warmest year for the nation.”

Unprecedented Tropical Storm Activity 

  • There were 19 named storms in the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season — the third consecutive year with that many storms.
  • According to hurricane expert Jeff Masters, the three hyperactive years constitute an “unprecedented level of tropical storm activity in the historical record.”

For the comprehensive update on climate conditions in the U.S. through November 2012 see State of the Climate, National Overview, November 2012, released by NOAA today.

1. NOAA. U.S. Climate Extremes Index. State of the Climate National Overview, November 2012.  
2. NOAA data for billion dollar disasters. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/  
3. Aon Benfield. November 2012 Global Catastrophe Recap ‐ Impact Forecasting (6 December 2012)
4. U.S. Drought May Cut GDP by 1 Percentage Point, Deutsche Says, Bloomberg, 11 November 2012.
5. US Drought Monitor. Drought Condition (Percent Area): United States. 6 December 2012.
6. Masters, Jeff, PhD. Nineteen Atlantic tropical storms 3 consecutive years: a very rare event, WunderBlog, 28 November 2012.

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