It has been an extraordinary year for weather and climate events in the United States: the country suffered unprecedented disasters of $ 22 billion in 2020 according to NOAA, the US meteorological service.
A record number of named tropical storms have formed in the Atlantic, with a record 12 that have made landfall. The nation also experienced its busiest wildfire year on record due to very dry conditions in the west and unusually warm temperatures that swept through much of the country.
Here’s a recap of the climate and extreme weather events in the United States in 2020, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Environmental Information Centers.
Last year the United States experienced a record 22 weather and climate disasters that killed at least 262 people and injured dozens more:
- 1 wildfire event (wildfires in western California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington);
- 1 episode of drought and heatwave (summer / fall in western and central United States);
- 3 tornado outbreaks (including the Nashville tornado and the Easter outbreak);
- 7 tropical cyclones (Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, Zeta and Eta);
- 10 severe weather events (including midwestern hailstorms Derecho and Texas)
Damage from these disasters exceeded $ 1 billion each and totaled approximately $ 95 billion for the 22 events.
The seven billion dollar tropical cyclones were the most in a year since NOAA began keeping track of billion dollar disasters in 1980. The highly active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season produces an unprecedented 30 named storms, With 12 landfall in the continental United States The combined cost of the seven tropical systems was approximately $ 40.1 billion, or more than 42% of the total cost of one billion US dollars in disaster in 2020.
Last year was also the most active wildfire year on record in the West. The three largest wildfires in Colorado history occurred in 2020, with California recording five of the six largest wildfires in its history. In the United States, wildfires burned nearly 10.3 million acres in 2020, exceeding the 2000-2010 average by 51%. This was the largest area consumed in the United States since at least 2000.
The average temperature across the contiguous United States in 2020 was 54.4 degrees F (2.4 degrees above the 20th century average), making 2020 the fifth warmest year on record. The five hottest years in the United States have been since 2012, according to NOAA scientists from NOAA’s National Environmental Information Centers.
Ten states in the southwest, southeast and east coast experienced their second warmest year on record. No areas of below-average annual temperatures were observed in the lower 48 states in 2020. In Alaska, despite temperatures 1.5 degrees F above the long-term average, the state experienced its most recent year. cooler since 2012.
Precipitation across the contiguous United States totaled 769 mm (8.36 mm inch above average), which placed 2020 in the middle third of the 126-year climate record.
Nevada and Utah were the driest on record, with Arizona and Colorado the second driest. On the other hand, North Carolina recorded its second wettest year, with Virginia recording its third wettest year.
According to the US Drought Monitor, 2020 ended with extreme and exceptional drought conditions that enveloped about 22% of the contiguous United States – the largest extent since August 2012.