Memo to Congress. The U.S. has tied its previous record for weather/climate-related losses. That's the bad news. The worse news is that it's only August and you've got three more months of hurricane season still to come.
"I don't think it takes a wizard to predict 2011 is likely to go down as one of the more extreme years for weather in history," National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes told journalists on a conference call.
The agency's parent organization, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, launched a campaign on Wednesday to better prepare Americans for violent weather.
There have so far been nine separate disasters this year that caused an economic loss of $1 billion or more in the United States, tying the record set in 2008, NOAA said. The most recent was the summer flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest.
The "new reality" is that both the frequency and the cost of extreme weather are rising, making the nation more economically vulnerable and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk, Hayes said.
The number of U.S. natural disasters has tripled in the last 20 years and 2010 was a record breaker with about 250, according to property and casualty reinsurer Munich Reinsurance America.
Average thunderstorm losses have increased five-fold since 1980. For the first half of 2011 there have been $20 billion in thunderstorm losses, up from the previous three-year average of $10 billion, NOAA said.
But American attitudes and perceptions are stubbornly slow to change. With Hurricane Irene barreling toward North Carolina, governors are still calling it a "once in a hundred year event." Really? How many times does a once in a hundred year event have to occur in short succession to no longer be a once in a hundred year event?