Hot enough for you?
You’ve probably seen stats showing how global temperatures have increased over the past few decades. NASA says 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.
The warming temperatures are being blamed for melting polar ice caps, increased droughts in several regions across the world, and even some big climate consequences here in the United States.
Startling U.S. Climate Data Points
Unfortunately, the climate trends in the U.S. appear to be in line with what we’re seeing across the globe. Despite recent tweets from President Donald Trump, these changes could be the root of some big national problems in the future.
Here are three U.S. climate data trends from 2017 that should alarm you.
1. 2017 Was the Third-Warmest Year in Recorded History
The first alarming statistic goes hand-in-hand with what we’re seeing from global climate reports.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says 2017 was the third-warmest year in recorded history in the United States. The organization has been tracking U.S. climate data since 1895.
According to NOAA climate data, the average temperature across the U.S. last year 54.58 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s an increase of about 2.5 degrees compared to the country’s average temperature from 1900 to 2000.
Even though 2017 was a little cooler than 2016, there’s no denying that these U.S. climate data points show a disturbing trend of warming in the country. 2012 was the warmest year on record, which means the three hottest periods have occurred in the past five years.
2. Natural Disasters Cost the U.S. $306 Billion in 2017
2017 was the costliest year for natural disasters.
NOAA climate data shows there were 16 weather or climate events last year – including hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, fires, freezes, and droughts – that caused at least 1 billion dollars in damage. Those 16 events tie 2017 with 2011 as the most in a single year. What’s more startling is the average number of events from 1980 to 2017 was less than six per year.
Much of damage was caused by the year’s three major hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of Texas, Hurricane Irma caused extensive damage in South Florida, and Hurricane Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico. Those three storms joined Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy as the costliest in U.S. history.
In addition, 2017 was the most expensive year for wildfires, both in damage and fire suppression costs.
The regions scorched by flames are now facing even more risks of natural disasters. For instance, recent heavy rains in Montecito, CA – the same area burned by the Thomas Fire at the end of 2017 – caused a series of mudslides that have killed at least 17 people.
3. Twenty-five Percent of the Country Was in a Drought at the End of 2017
At first glance, this might not seem like a large number. Especially when compared to the record figure of 65 percent in 2012.
But when you consider in May 2017 that number was only 4 percent, the fluctuation becomes concerning.
While not all of the U.S. suffered from drought conditions in 2017, the problem grew worse in the second half of 2017. According to NOAA climate data, states across the West, Plains, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic received much-below-average precipitation. In addition, December rain and snowfall was nearly an inch below average – making the final month of 2017 the ninth driest on record.
It’s fair to note the same NOAA climate data pointed out that drought conditions improved in Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley. However, much of that rainfall came over a short period from Hurricane Harvey.
What’s to Blame for Changes in U.S. Climate Data
Officials are increasingly pointing to global warming as the main cause of climate change and weather disasters.
Rising temperatures can strengthen storms, alter rainfall patterns, and evaporate water from the soil. These factors can create more damaging hurricanes and tornadoes, contribute to drought conditions (which leads to crop loss and dwindling water supplies), and fuel wildfires which can quickly grow out of control.
While there is no way to prevent these incidents, world leaders need to take these threats seriously and develop conversation and environmental protection policies aimed at reducing global temperatures.
It’s not too late, but the clock is ticking.