Winter Weather Made a $55 Billion Hit to US Economy
By John Lawrence
The winter of 2014 broke records and budgets. NBC News reported that the economy took a $55 billion hit because of the extreme winter weather. There was $5.5 billion in damage to homes, businesses, agriculture and infrastructure. Cities had additional costs for salt for roads and asphalt for potholes. There were more than 30,000 potholes in Toledo, OH alone. The companies that supply salt and asphalt are making a fortune. This winter also saw 79.3 inches of snow falling in Chicago where there were 23 days below zero.
In California drought covers 99.8% of the state. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically holds at least half of all the water that will flow to the state’s farms and cities each year, is at just one-fourth of its normal level.
As for Silicon Valley, the region’s largest water provider is putting in place unprecedented cutbacks this spring on cities and farmers. Because of the lack of rain, the Santa Clara Valley Water District recently alerted seven cities and companies that provide water to about 1.5 million people that it will provide only 80 percent of the treated drinking water they have requested through the rest of the year.
The UN says 2013 extreme weather events were due to human-induced climate change. Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 6,100 people and caused $13 billion in damage to the Philippines and Vietnam. UN Secretary-General Michel Jarraud also cited other costly weather disasters such as $22 billion damage from central European flooding in June, $10 billion in damage from Typhoon Fitow in China and Japan, and a $10 billion drought in much of China.
The polar vortex brought unprecedented cold to much of the continental US. 18 States had all-time record cold in March. Rochester, N.Y. dropped to 9 degrees below zero, breaking the city’s all-time March low of 7 below zero. In Baltimore, on March 4 the low temperature dipped to 4 degrees, breaking the all-time coldest March low temperature on record – previously 5 degrees on March 4, 1873.
Atlantic City, N.J. broke its record coldest March low temperature, dipping to a shivering 2 degrees. Dulles International Airport, just west of Washington, D.C., reached 1 degree below zero on March 4, tying the all-time March low previously set after the Superstorm on March 15, 1993. In Charlottesville, Va. the low temperature bottomed out at 1 degree above zero, shattering the city’s all-time March record low of 7 degrees.
60 scientists in Japan are writing a massive and authoritative report on the impacts of global warming. With representatives from about 100 governments at this week’s meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they’ll wrap up a summary that tells world leaders how bad the problem is.
The report says scientists have already observed many changes from warming, such as an increase in heat waves in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Severe floods, such as the one that displaced 90,000 people in Mozambique in 2008, are now more common in Africa and Australia. Europe and North America are getting more intense downpours. Melting ice in the Arctic is not only affecting the polar bear, but already changing the culture and livelihoods of indigenous people in northern Canada.
While the eastern United States shivers through an early spring cold snap, the globe as a whole continues to warm. The World Meteorological Organization announced that they had confirmed that 2013 was the sixth warmest year on record, tied with 2007, in their annual report on the world’s weather and climate.
The Southern Hemisphere saw particular warmth: Australia had its hottest year on record, while Argentina saw its second hottest. Europe also experienced its sixth warmest year on record, despite a cooler-than-normal spring in many places. The heatwaves that washed across the continent in summer offset that coolness.
The Brazilian semi-arid region has over the last few years experienced the worst drought in decades. According to its national agency of water, this drought is increasingly proving to be a major challenge for South America’s largest nation.
Despite the frigid temperatures that kept those in the eastern United States shivering all winter, the period from December 2013 to February 2014 was the 8th warmest on record globally, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center reported.
Devastating extreme weather including recent flooding in England, Australia’s hottest year on record and the US being hit by a polar vortex have a “silver lining” of boosting climate change to the highest level of politics and reminding politicians that climate change is not a partisan issue, according to the UN’s climate chief.
The flooding of thousands of homes in England because of the wettest winter on record has brought climate change to the forefront of political debate in the UK. The prime minister, David Cameron, when challenged by Labour leader, Ed Miliband, on his views on man-made climate change and having climate change sceptics in his cabinet, said last week: “I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces.”
UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres said: “I hope that we don’t need too many more Sandys or Haiyans or fires in Australia or floods in the UK to wake us up.
The last week of March saw the gigantic mudslide in Oso, Washington taking more than 24 lives. You might not think this was due to climate change, but it was. That area had been experiencing 200% more precipitation than normal. That excess rain loosened the soil and the mountain collapsed.
A huge storm in the waning days of March just missed the continetal US but whipped up gale force winds on the offshore islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Finally, the UN released their report on the last day of March warning of the impending disasters caused by global warming. The latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the effects of warming are being felt everywhere, fuelling potential food shortages, natural disasters and raising the risk of wars. A good assessment can be found in the New York Times here.
Last year there were seven major weather events costing $7 billion and 109 lives according to ABC news.