Hurricanes, tornadoes, heat or cold waves… The main weather disasters that hit the United States in 2022 caused at least $165 billion in damage, according to a federal report published on Tuesday, which points to the amplifying effect. of climate change.
This annual amount represents the third highest since this data was tracked by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) in 1980.
By far the costliest event of 2022, Hurricane Ian, which devastated Florida in late September, alone caused $112.9 billion in damage.
The two years with the most damage in the past are 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) and 2017 (Hurricanes Harvey and Irma).
Hurricane Ian was also by far the costliest disaster in the world, according to a report from the reinsurer Munich Re also published on Tuesday, which estimated the overall losses at 270 billion dollars.
The United States thus confirms its special place on the scale of the globe.
"We have consistently had both the greatest number - more than any other country each year - and the greatest diversity of types of weather extremes," the government said at a press conference. Noaa administrator Rick Spinrad.
"Climate change is creating more and more extreme events causing significant damage, and often causing cascading hazards, such as intense drought followed by devastating fires, followed by dangerous floods and landslides," he said. -he adds.
18 major disasters
For its calculation, the American agency takes into account the destruction of buildings, public infrastructure (bridges, roads, etc.), the loss of earnings for businesses, or even losses for agriculture - but not the costs in health care or other indirect costs.
After Ian, the second costliest event was the heat wave and drought that affected the western and central United States, with a bill of more than 22 billion dollars (particularly related to crop losses, or still touristic).
Flooding also affected Kentucky and Missouri in July, and tornadoes tore through parts of the southeastern United States in late March.
In total, the United States experienced no less than 18 weather disasters last year with a cost of more than $1 billion, also the third year with the highest number of such disasters - behind 2020 and 2021. These 18 disasters caused the death of more than 470 people, according to Noaa.
Slight increase in greenhouse gas emissions
The concentration of major weather events in recent years points to "a new normal", warned Noaa.
Between 1980 and 2022, the annual number of such disasters averaged eight.
But considering only the last five years, the average soars to 17.8 per year.
Experts insist that this increase is a direct consequence of greenhouse gas emissions, which are warming the planet.
For example, fire seasons are longer, and rising sea levels aggravate flooding during storms.
However, greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are not declining: they increased slightly in 2022 compared to the previous year (+ 1.3%), according to an analysis by the research group Rhodium Group on Tuesday. .
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The amount of 165 billion could still increase by a few billion, because the costs linked to the extreme cold wave that hit the northern United States at the end of December have not all been stopped.
And since this report only takes into account major disasters, the total cost related to weather events is even higher, by adding the smaller ones.
The biggest disasters, however, represent an increasing proportion of the total over the years, according to the agency (about 85% in 2022).
In addition to the increased frequency of these disasters, the increase in costs is partly linked to population growth (and therefore to the accumulation of goods) in areas at risk, for example on the coasts.