Global Warming

Stop pretending it's not climate change

2011 is further proof that a new era of extreme weather is dawning -- and it's about to get much, much worse

  • Southwest and South Central states: Extreme heat 2011

    Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana had their hottest summers on record this year. Texas had the warmest summer of any state in the U.S. going back to when modern records began in 1895. Oklahoma came in second, and both states beat records set during the Dust Bowl era in the 1930s. In Texas, the average statewide temperature for the summer was a whopping 86.8°F. Every state in the lower-48 except North Dakota and Vermont had at least one day with a temperature topping 100°F. Many cities broke all-time heat records. For example, Austin, Texas, set new records for the most 100° days, the hottest month, the hottest summer, and hottest day in history (112°F, tied with Sept. 5, 2000). Nationally, the ratio of record highs to record lows this summer was 4.35-to-1. But in Texas, the ratio was 80-to-1.

  • Hurricane Irene, Aug. 20-29, 2011

    While it will take several months to determine an accurate estimate of the damage from Hurricane Irene, there is no question it will rank as a billion-dollar weather event. At least 40 people have died as a result of the storm. Impact Forecasting, a private firm, has come up with an insured loss estimate for Hurricane Irene (U.S.-mainland only, including wind and storm surge, not river flooding). Its official insured loss range for Irene is $1.6 billion to $6.6 billion, with a median of $3.6 billion.

  • Record Mississippi and Missouri River flooding [Upper Midwest/Midwest/Central states] spring-summer, 2011

    Upper Midwest flooding, spring 2011
    At least three people were killed in early April when the Red River Valley experienced severe flooding caused by excessive runoff into rivers and streams in North Dakota and Minnesota. Melting of an above-average snowpack across the Northern Rocky Mountains combined with above-average precipitation caused the Missouri and Souris Rivers to swell beyond their banks across the Upper Midwest. An estimated 11,000 people were forced to evacuate Minot, N.D., due to the record high water level of the Souris River, where 4,000 homes were flooded. Numerous levees were breached along the Missouri River, flooding thousands of acres of farmland. Estimated losses exceed $2.0 billion.

    Mississippi River flooding, spring-summer 2011
    Persistent heavy rains combine with snowmelt to bring major flooding throughout the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, prompting a federal disaster declaration in three states. At least nine people were killed in flood-related incidents. Flood damage was reported from southern Canada and the Dakotas through Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. The American Farm Bureau Federation reported that over 3.6 million acres of farmland have been damaged. The flooding, in combination with intentional levee explosions and the opening of spillways, led to damages of at least $5 billion (primarily due to agricultural losses) up and down the Mississippi River Valley. The government’s Risk Management Agency noted that publicly and privately insured crop losses would be at least $1.1 billion.

  • Southern Plains/Southwest drought, heat wave and wildfires, November 2010-May 31, 2011

    The drought, which began in November 2010, has had a significant impact on livestock and crop producers of wheat, cotton, grain, corn and sorghum throughout the states. Drought, heat waves and wildfires stretched across Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, southern Kansas, and western Arkansas and Louisiana. The costs of fighting the wildfire are estimated at roughly $1 million per day with over 2,000 homes and structures lost. Direct losses (as of Aug. 15) to agriculture, cattle and structures are well over $5 billion.

  • Southeast and Midwest: Spring 2011 tornadoes

    Midwest/Southeast tornadoes, May 22-27, 2011
    The May tornado outbreak will be remembered for the EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., resulting in at least 141 deaths, making it the deadliest single tornado to strike in the U.S. since modern tornado record keeping began in 1950. Over $4.9 billion insured losses for the event; total losses greater than $7 billion.

    Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest tornadoes, April 25-30, 2011
    The deadliest tornado of the outbreak, an EF-5, hit northern Alabama, killing 78 people. Several major metropolitan areas were directly impacted by strong tornadoes including Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville in Alabama and Chattanooga, Tenn. Total losses were greater than $9.0 billion and 327 people were killed.

    Midwest/Southeast tornadoes, April 14-16, 2011
    A deadly multi-day tornado outbreak affected central and eastern sections of the country. At least 48 people were killed as hundreds of tornado touchdowns are recorded with thousands of other reports of large hail and damaging winds. The system initially impacted parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas on the 14th, with major damage reports in each state. Total economic losses are expected to exceed $500 million. Various insurers have received thousands of claims and payouts will likely enter the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Southeast/Midwest tornadoes, April 8-11, 2011
    A second April storm system brought widespread severe weather across parts of the Midwest, Plains and the Southeast. In Oklahoma and Kansas, strong supercell thunderstorms trigger golfball- and baseball-size hail. In Iowa, at least 28 tornado touchdowns are reported. On the 9th and 10th, a cluster of thunderstorms crosses the Tennessee Valley into the Southeast. The Carolinas were particularly affected. Golfball to tennis ball-size hail pummels homes, businesses and vehicles. Total economic losses are listed at approximately $2.25 billion, while various insurers receive more than 300,000 claims with payouts in excess of $1.35 billion.

    Midwest/Southeast tornadoes, April 3-5, 2011
    A powerful spring storm affected the eastern U.S. leading to at least nine fatalities. Most of the damage is hail-induced with hailstones ranging from nickel- to baseball-size. The Storm Prediction Center records 1,476 storm reports, which sets a one-day record dating to 2000. Total economic losses are listed at approximately $2 billion, while various insurers receive more than 250,000 claims with payouts in excess of $1.25 billion.

  • Major

    Major snowstorms of 2011

    The blizzard that paralyzed New York City shortly after Christmas was followed by record-breaking snowstorms in the Northeast and Midwest during January and February.

    Six locations saw their snowiest January on record: Hartford, Conn. (57.0 inches); Bridgeport, Conn. (42.0 inches); Newark, N.J. (37.4 inches); Central Park, N.Y. (36.0 inches); Islip, N.Y. (34.3 inches); and LaGuardia Airport, N.Y. (32.6 inches).

    Hartford’s 57 inches of snow in January made it the city’s all-time snowiest month on record.

    The Groundhog Day blizzard (Jan. 29-Feb. 3, 2011) was Chicago’s second-largest snowstorm on record. It caused more than $1.8 billion in total losses, and 36 weather-related deaths. The storm brought record amounts of snow, ice and severe thunderstorms across a more than 2,000 mile stretch of the United States from Colorado to Maine, leaving at least 36 people dead. Twenty-two separate states receive snow totals of 5 inches or more and accumulations of more than 18 inches are recorded in seven other states. Following the Groundhog Day blizzard, every state in the Lower 48 states had snow on the ground, except for Florida.

    The so-called Snowtober storm (Oct. 29-30, 2011) was an unusually early major winter storm that struck the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast and caused widespread tree damage and power outages. Snowtober knocked out power to more than 3 million customers, and resulted in the largest power outage in Connecticut’s history. Dropping up to 32 inches of snow, it was the most severe early-season snowstorm in New England since before the Civil War. According to one insurance company estimate, Snowtober resulted in upward of $3 billion in damage.

  • Tropical

    Tropical Storm Lee, Sept. 8, 2011

    Heavy rainfall resulted in historic flooding in Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and elsewhere. Damage is estimated at around $1 billion. Flooding in Wilkes-Barre led to a mandatory evacuation on Sept. 8. On that same day, Fort Belvoir, Va., received an astounding 7.03 inches of rain in three hours. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), that amount of rain in that amount of time was an “off the charts above a 1000-year rainfall (based on precipitation frequency from Quantico).”