Two more events added to the dozen with $1 billion-plus in damages
From droughts and wildfires to tornadoes and hurricanes – and let’s not forget flooding, hail and that Halloween snowstorm — last year will go down as one of the most extreme weather years on record.
This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the final tally for 2011.
The two latest disasters to make the grim list are September’s Tropical Storm Lee which swept up the East Coast to cause record flooding and 21 deaths, and July’s severe weather that brought high winds, hail, and flooding to the Rocky Mountains and the Midwest, and took two lives.
Across the planet it was the 15th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. Here in the U.S., the portion of the nation in extreme drought or very wet conditions was the highest ever: 58%, and that’s nearly three times normal. No surprise that temperatures in Texas made for the second warmest year on record, with the drought there surpassing the severity of ones in the 1930s and 1960s. Seven states across the Midwest and Northeast had their wettest years ever.
Even effects from the El Nino Southern Oscilliation (ENSO) — and it’s current, opposite La Nina phase — are changing, according to NOAA; both El Nino and La Nina years are tending to be warmer. The 2011 global surface temps during this La Nina were, “as warm as anything we’ve seen in the past,” said Thomas Karl, director of the agency’s subcommittee on Global Change Research.
The global La Nina/El Nino graph shows a steep rise in temps since 1990 and last year, the phenomenon was responsible for the warmest summers recorded in Norway and Spain, the second warmest for the UK. “The extreme conditions witnessed in 2011 are consistent with trends driven by global warming,” Karl said. Of course, no single year’s data necessarily links to long-term climate changes, but scientists say last year’s weather roller coaster is consistent with what they expect from global climate change.
Over the next three months, NOAA expects temps in California to be close to normal, slightly cooler north of the Golden Gate, and precipitation will be slightly below normal south of San Francisco. Still sunny in here in L.A. Send (some) rain. Not too much.
You can find all the hard numbers and graphs on the NOAA website.