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US suffers historic drought, extreme weather damage in 2022


According to calculations from climate scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published Tuesday, the United States experienced a historic drought and spent a near-record amount of money on extreme weather damage in 2022. This, despite the fact that the year was far from the warmest in U.S. history.

“Drought coverage across the contiguous U.S. remained significant for the second year in a row, with a minimum extent of 44% occurring on Sept. 6 and a maximum coverage of 63% on Oct. 25 — the largest contiguous U.S. footprint since the drought of 2012,” NOAA said Tuesday. “The multi-year western U.S. drought resulted in water stress/shortages across many locations in 2022 as some major reservoirs dropped to their lowest levels on record.”

While the U.S. as a whole did not experience its driest year ever, individual states like Nebraska (fourth) and California (ninth) experienced top-10 years for dryness. Seven states experienced a top-10 warmest year in 2022, including:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island

While part of the country dealt with drought conditions, others had to recover from one of the most expensive years when it comes to extreme weather damage. There were 18 so-called “billion dollar disasters” that led to 474 deaths and more than $165 billion in damage.

“The following 18 events, each exceeding $1 billion, put 2022 in third place (tied with 2011 and 2017) for the highest number of disasters recorded in a calendar year, behind 2021 — with 20 events — and 2020, with a record 22 separate billion-dollar events,” NOAA said. “Damages from these disasters.. makes 2022 the third most costly year on record, only behind 2017 and 2005.”

Highlighting these extreme weather events was Hurricane Ian, which cost the U.S. just under $113 billion. It now ranks as the third most costly hurricane on record behind Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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