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2017 was the worst year on record for US environmental disasters

NOAA has confirmed that 2017 was the costliest year on record for US weather and climate disasters, with damage exceeding the $300 billion dollar mark.

The average US temperature in 2017 was 54.6 degrees F (2.6 degrees F above average), making 2017 the third warmest year in 123 years of record-keeping, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. In fact, the five warmest years on record for the US all have occurred since 2006.

Precipitation for the year totaled 32.21 inches (2.27 inches above the long-term average) ranking 2017 as the 20th wettest year and the fifth consecutive year with above-average precipitation. The national drought footprint (total area) began and ended with about one quarter of the Lower 48 states in drought. The drought footprint reached a low of 4.5 percent in May, the smallest drought footprint in the 18-year period of the US Drought Monitor.

Billion-dollar disasters in 2017

During 2017 the US experienced 16 weather and climate disasters each with losses exceeding $1 billion, totaling approximately $306 billion — a new US record.  

At least 362 people died and many more were injured during the course of the disasters that included:

  • 1 freeze;
  • 1 drought (affected multiple areas);
  • 1 wildfire (affected multiple areas);
  • 2 floods;
  • 3 major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria); and
  • 8 severe storms.

The biggest incidents included the western US wildfires that caused damages tallying $18 billion — triple the previous US record for a wildfire. Losses from Hurricane Harvey exceeded $125 billion, which ranked second only to Hurricane Katrina, the costliest storm in the 38-year period of record. Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total damages of $90 billion and $50 billion, respectively. Hurricane Maria now ranks as the third costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation, with Irma coming in close behind as the fifth costliest. 

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