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2017 goes down as costliest year ever for natural disasters in US

12 January 2018

Hurricane Harvey, which dumped some 50 inches (127 centimeters) of rain on Texas, cost $125 billion, second only to 2005's Hurricane Katrina in historical records of billion-dollar disasters, going back to 1980.

The US experienced a record year of losses from fires, hurricanes and other weather related disasters in 2017, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

In 2017, the US saw 16 separate $1 billion disasters, tying 2011 for the record number of $1 billion disasters for an entire calendar year, according to NOAA.

This ties with 2011 in terms of the record number of billion-dollar natural disasters, and - NOAA argues - perhaps even exceeds it, depending on how a natural disaster is counted.

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They included two flooding events, one freeze event, eight severe storm events, three tropical cyclones, one drought and one wildfire.

Several of 2017's weather and climate disaster occurrences had a large impact on agriculture, too.

Hurricane Irma, that just followed Hurricane Harvey, cost the USA $50 billion, the fifth costliest in U.S. history of natural disasters, the NOAA assessment says.

Hurricane Maria, which devastated the Caribbean, including the US territory of Puerto Rico, caused $90 billion in damage, while Hurricane Irma, which hit the Caribbean islands and Florida in September, caused $50 billion worth of damage. In 2017, the disasters led to losses worth over $90 billion (Rs 5.71 lakh crore) more than the last costliest year, 2005.

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A year ago was the nation's third-warmest since record-keeping began in 1895, according to NOAA.

NOAA also announced Monday that 2017 was the third-warmest year on record within the United States, at 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average.

It noted the five warmest years for the United States all have occurred since 2006. That's the costliest year on record for the U.S. Federal scientists only suggested a number of factors, including global warming, last year's La Niña weather pattern and the increased vulnerability of communities and infrastructure to weather.

30% of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. This past hurricane season resulted in a record high $265 billion in losses, and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria all ranked in the top five most expensive United States tropical cyclones based on preliminary estimates.

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The daunting numbers NOAA released this week should be a loud wake-up call for more insurance companies, which in general have long overlooked the potential risks that climate change could have on their portfolios. The year 2017 was also the most expensive wildfire season, with a price tag of $18 billion, which triples the cost of the previous wildfire record from 1991. They also tagged 2017 as the most expensive hurricane season ever. The hottest year was 2012, followed by 2016.

2017 goes down as costliest year ever for natural disasters in US