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domingo, 1 de maio de 2011

@grist Is extreme #weather the new norm?

Grist.org

Is extreme weather the new norm?


http://www.grist.org/

"April is the cruelest month." - T. S. Eliot

April 2011 has been a cruel month indeed for Americans due to extreme weather. The Weather Channel observed that:

It's been a truly awful, record-setting, tornadic April. We've had eleven major severe weather events, some lasting multiple days.

These extreme events included supercell thunderstorms in Iowa, severe drought and record wildfires in Texas, and heavy rains across the United States. The recent Southeastern storms and tornados took at least 297 lives across eight states. And heavy rains in the Mississippi River valley could cause the most severe, damaging floods there in nearly a century.

This extreme weather, though record setting in some places, may be the new normal. Last year, unprecedented extreme weather led to a record number of disaster declarations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The United States and the world were swept by flooding, severe winter storms, heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and tornadoes.

The extreme weather of 2010 exacted a huge human and economic toll as well. More than 380 people died and 1,700 were injured due to weather events in the United States throughout the year. And the magnitude of these events forced the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to declare 81 disasters last year. For nearly 60 years, the annual average has been 33. In 2010, total damages exceeded a whopping $6.7 billion. As of April 2011, FEMA had dedicated more than $2 billion in financial assistance to those harmed by extreme weather in 2010.

A February 2011 special report from Reuters noted that it's been rough going for the $500 billion U.S. property insurance business, explaining that "storms are happening in places they never happened before, at intensities they have never reached before and at times of year when they didn't used to happen."

It is precisely this uncertainty "associated with climate change that substantiates the risks to the economy and society," says George Backus, of the Discrete Mathematics and Complex Systems Department at Sandia National Laboratories. This is bad news for a nation just emerging from the grips of the Great Recession. Per Backus, a 2010 report from Sandia estimates that "the climate uncertainty as it pertains to rainfall alone [puts] the U.S. economy is at risk of losing between $600 billion and $2 trillion, and between 4 million and 13 million U.S. jobs over the next 40 years."