US saw record ‘billion-dollar’ climate disasters, high temps in 2023

US saw record ‘billion-dollar’ climate disasters, high temps in 2023

THE US had more “billion-dollar” floods, fires and other climate disasters in 2023 than ever before, and the country’s average temperature was the fifth highest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Tuesday.

Among the disasters was a wildfire on Maui, the nation’s deadliest in more than a century, severe floods in California, two tornado outbreaks in central states, a winter storm in the northeast last February, and Hurricane Idalia in August.

“For millions of Americans impacted by a seemingly endless onslaught of weather and climate disasters, 2023 has hit a new record for many extremes,” NOAA chief scientist Sarah Kapnick, said as her agency released its annual report.

Ms. Kapnick added that the extremes we now face “will continue to worsen due to climate change.”

Most mainstream scientists say the burning of fossil fuels is causing more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels. The El Niño weather phenomenon, which warms surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, also contributed to higher temperatures last year.

What scientists do not yet know is whether 2023’s extreme heat is a sign that global warming is accelerating.

NOAA said the 28 climate disasters that caused over a billion dollars in damage each topped the previous record set in 2020 by six. The 28 events caused nearly $93 billion in damages, NOAA said, adding the price tag is expected to rise once the costs of a December storm and flooding on the East Coast are totaled.

NOAA said the average temperatures last month made it the warmest December in its 129 years of keeping track.

The average annual temperature in the contiguous U.S. was 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit (12.4 degrees Celsius) last year, which was 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average in NOAA’s records.

Five US states — Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Texas — saw their warmest years on record, while another six states recorded their second-warmest. — Reuters