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Disasters cost the U.S. economy US$306 billion in 2017

DENVER: January 09, 2018. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, fires and freezes claimed the lives of over 362 people and cost the U.S. a record US$306 billion in 2017.

The previous record of US$214.8 billion was in 2005 following the impact of hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Since 1980 the U.S. has sustained 219 weather and climate disasters that have cost the country over US$1.5 trillion.

NOAA disaster map 2017The biggest events in 2017 included the western U.S. wildfires that caused US $18 billion in damage — triple the previous record. Losses from Hurricane Harvey exceeded US$125 billion, which ranked second only to Hurricane Katrina as the costliest storm in the 38 years. Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total damages of US$90 billion and US$50 billion respectively. Maria now ranks as third costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation.

According to scientists from the NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, 2017 was the third warmest in 123 years, with the five warmest all occurring since 2006.

Reinsurer Munich Re said Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the severe earthquake in Mexico cost the insurance industry a record US$135 billion last year. When including uninsured losses the total rose to US$330 billion – only the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan was more at US$354 billion.

"For me, a key point is that some of the catastrophic events, such as the series of three extremely damaging hurricanes, or the very severe flooding in South Asia after extraordinarily heavy monsoon rains, are giving us a foretaste of what is to come," said Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek. "Because even though individual events cannot be directly traced to climate change, our experts expect such extreme weather to occur more often in future."

Some 2,700 people lost their lives in 2017 following the South Asia monsoon that covered the Terai lowlands in Nepal, where almost half of the Nepalese live, as well as certain Himalayan provinces of India. In some districts, 75 percent of the land was under water. Only a small fraction of the US$3.5 billion in losses was insured, according to Munich Re.

Prompted by the record cold temperatures along the U.S. east coast during the first week of January, Donald Trump observed in a tweet: "In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming."

This week Trump hinted he might reconsider reversing his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement while announcing plans to open up U.S. territorial waters to offshore drilling for oil and gas.

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