Extreme weather in 2011

More than a dozen billion-dollar disasters

When it comes to climate change, 2011 was a record year for extreme weather and extremely costly natural disasters. There were a dozen disasters in the United States that caused at least $1 billion each in damage—that’s more than occurred in all of the 1980s (even considering inflation), according to a Houston Chronicle report.

The year saw tornadoes—343 in a four-day span—floods, snow, drought, heat and wildfire. And overall, more than 1,000 people were killed. Meteorologist and National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes calls it “the deadly, destructive and relentless 2011.”

Scientists see the year as a sign of things to come, though they don’t predict 2012 to be worse. The past two years have averaged 7.5 billion-dollar disasters; the previous record was nine in 2008. Princeton University geological-sciences professor Michael Oppenheimer says the world has to do two things to stop the pattern: slow global warming and be better prepared for extreme weather to come.