Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility2020 5th Hottest on Record in the U.S. - 95 Billion in Weather/Climate Related Disasters | WRGB
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2020 5th Hottest on Record in the U.S. - 95 Billion in Weather/Climate Related Disasters

Top 10 Hottest Years on Record in the United States - Climate Central
Top 10 Hottest Years on Record in the United States - Climate Central
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The "Heat" again was on in 2020 across the United States with the year landing as the 5th hottest on record for the nation, continuing a trend of hot years in very recent times. In fact the top five hottest years nationally on record have all now occurred since 2012. According to NOAA's Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI,) the average annual temperature for the contiguous United States in 2020 was 54.4 degrees which is 2.4 degrees above the 20th century average.

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We can look to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels and emissions from transportation systems, among other sources, as the cause for the vast majority of the temperature increase that is being observed both nationally and globally. It's true that early in 2020 carbon dioxide levels did drop some in the atmosphere as the world largely shut down with limited travel due to the pandemic. However, the CO2 drop was small and only temporary as a new seasonal record high concentration of CO2 of 417 parts per million was still reached in May at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This measurement continued the observed trend of rising CO2 in the atmosphere which is directly related to increasing temperature as illustrated in the graph below which shows global temperatures rising in lock step with the increases in CO2. For those that believe natural climate variability is playing a role in our current warming, research and science's understanding of the climate system says that is not the case. If natural variability alone was at play our climate would actually be currently cooling. Click here for an excellent illustration of the well known long term natural climate drivers and how alone they cannot explain the observed warming since the start of the industrial revolution. It's only when you add into the equation the observed increases in carbon dioxide, among the other greenhouse gases, that society emits, that the current warming period can be explained.

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The 2019 CO2 peak of 411 PPM was eclipsed with May 2020's peak of 416 PPM.

Research continues to tell us that the warming that's being observed in the atmosphere, land and ice surfaces, which accounts for 7% of the observed excess heat, and in the oceans, which currently accounts for 93% of the observed excess heat, is contributing to increasing volatility in the weather leading to more extremes. Nationally, 2020 exemplified this with and unprecedented twenty two separate weather and climate disasters causing at least 1 billion in damages. These events included drought, a wildfire, severe weather, tornado and tropical. A total of seven tropical systems, Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, Zeta and Eta landed in the U.S and together accounted for 40.1 billion dollars in damages, which was more than 42% of the 2020 total billion dollar weather and climate related damage price tag of 95 billion for all twenty two events. You can read the detailed 2020 summary which includes the methodology of how the calculations are done.

The 2020 tropical season was historic with a record thirty named storms, twelve making landfall in the United states, six of them as hurricanes. We felt the impacts locally when Tropical Storm Isaias rolled through with flooding rain and wind causing significant power outages on August 4. Increasing heat content in the oceans is having an impact, when atmospheric conditions are favorable, which was often the case in 2020, to allow for tropical systems to undergo rapid intensification with this occurring in five storms in the 2020 season. Stronger and wetter storms, fueled by climate change, lead to greater impacts when those storms come on shore. And in 2020, the number, wetness and strength of the storms significantly contributed to the high damage cost and severely challenged the populations that they affected.

ALSO: December 2020 and the Year - Weather in Review

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