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by Margaret Hartley


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Extreme weather

The nation’s most expensive weather event in 2012 was not Superstorm Sandy, but the continuing drought, according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund.

The WWF says that more than 62 percent of the United States is still experiencing drought conditions, which will remain in effect into early 2013 at least.

Major findings in the WWF’s year-to-date review, issued Dec. 6, are:

Most extreme weather: Through November, weather in the contiguous U.S. has been the most extreme on record.

Costly year: 2012 has the potential to be the most costly year on record.

WWF estimates that costs from 2012’s 11 largest weather-related disasters in the U.S. will cost between $160 billion and $235 billion.

According to data assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the period 1980 through 2011, 2005 was the costliest year, with $187.2 billion (2012 dollars) in damages (Hurricane Katrina alone accounted for $146.3 billion of that).

Drought disaster: The costliest weather disaster of 2012 has been the worsening drought, which could reduce Gross Domestic Product this year by as much as 1 percent, or by roughly $150 billion.

Impacts from the drought will spill over into the new year, which will start with far more serious drought conditions than at the beginning of 2012.

As of Dec. 4, more than 62 percent of the Unites States was in drought, twice the area in drought a year ago.

The “Seasonal Drought Outlook” issued by NOAA Dec. 6 indicates that while conditions will improve in some parts of the U.S., the drought will persist or intensify over most drought-affected areas.

Hottest year on record: 2012 is on track to be the hottest year on record in the contiguous U.S. According to NOAA “It appears virtually certain that 2012 will surpass the current record (1998, 54.3°F) as the warmest year for the nation.”

Unprecedented storm activity: There were 19 named storms in the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, the third consecutive year with that many storms.

Source: World Wildlife Fund. For NOAA’s State of the Climate National Overview for November 2012, click here.

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