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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says 2021 was the nation's second worst year on record for costly weather and climate-related events.
The U.S. was hit with 20 weather and climate-related disasters that each caused $1 billion or more in damage last year and that together killed at least 688 people, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
These included 11 severe storms, four hurricanes, two episodes of massive flooding, along with other events, such as wildfires, drought and the harsh winter weather that caused havoc across parts of Texas. Last year's incidents, NOAA says, marked the second-highest number of billion-dollar or more weather and climate disasters on record in a year. The year with the most was 2020, with 22 such events.
Damage from last year's events totaled $145 billion, outstripping the $102 billion in damage from the events that made the list in 2020.
The annual average number of weather and climate-related disasters that caused damage of $1 billion or more—after adjusting for inflation—was 7.4 per year from 1980 to 2021, and 17.2 events for the most recent five years, the report says.
Hurricane Ida, which slammed the Gulf Coast last August, making landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm, was 2021's costliest event checking in with damages around $75 billion.
Last year saw an average temperature in the contiguous U.S. of 54.5 degrees, 2.5 degrees above the 20th century average, and the fourth-warmest year in the past 127 years, the NOAA report also says.
NOAA's findings come as the Biden administration is putting an emphasis on the importance of investments to cut carbon emissions and in infrastructure and other projects designed to make the nation more resilient to natural disasters.
The White House has said that the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law the president signed in November includes about $50 billion for programs meant to protect against events like drought, heat and floods.
A separate domestic spending package that would make further investments intended to combat climate change has stalled in Congress with Democrats in the narrowly divided Senate unable to marshal the votes they need to get it passed.
More on NOAA's findings can be found here.
Bill Lucia is a senior editor for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.