News / USA

US Sets Extreme Weather Records in 2011

Events consistent with long-term global warming trends

Margie Sisemore cleans after a tornado destroyed several homes in the small town of Cincinnati, Arkansas. That tornado was among 1,600 that crisscrossed the US in 2011.
Margie Sisemore cleans after a tornado destroyed several homes in the small town of Cincinnati, Arkansas. That tornado was among 1,600 that crisscrossed the US in 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

Extreme weather cut a path of destruction across the United States in 2011.

For Bill Wing, it began 12 months ago, on New Year’s Day, as he surveyed the damage from a tornado that touched down in Cincinnati, Arkansas.

“It sounded like a freight train coming," he says. "We weren't in the direct path of it. You could feel the wind moving and the shaking, more like an earthquake for us.”  

That tornado was among 1,600 that crisscrossed the nation in 2011. Twelve weather-related disasters accounted for $1 billion or more each in economic losses, a new record, according to Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the National Weather Service.



“We’ve seen historic events of nearly every weather category," says Vaccaro. "So in terms of snow storms, and hurricanes and floods and droughts, all of these events this year ranked in the top three or even the highest ever recorded.”

The extreme weather affected millions of people, claimed 1,000 lives, resulted in 8,000 injuries and totaled more than $52 billion in economic losses. The most costly, according to David Brown, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was the year-long drought that continues to grip southern plains states.

In 2011, Texas farmers contended with a year-long drought which continues to grip southern plains states.
In 2011, Texas farmers contended with a year-long drought which continues to grip southern plains states.

“We’re looking at $6 to $8 billion in damage from agricultural losses, from fire losses, in places like Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma and if the drought persists for the next several months, as we expect it will, those damages will only increase.”

Vaccaro says a growing population and expanding infrastructure account in part for the damages, but also large-scale cyclical weather patterns came into play in 2011. “First and foremost was La Nina in the eastern Pacific which altered our standard storm patterns. And we also had a pattern in the Arctic called the Arctic Oscillation.

That was a big factor in the winter and spring months, allowing cold air to flow into the United States that helped spawn snow storms and also support the tornado season.”

While there is no evidence to connect global warming with specific local weather events, Vaccaro says this past year’s weather extremes are consistent with what climate experts are projecting for the long-term. Warming temperatures provide more energy and water in the atmosphere and consequently trigger more intense droughts, heavier rainfall and stronger storms.

Peter Altman, climate and clean air campaign director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, expects the situation to get worse as global temperatures continue to rise. He advocates action to reduce climate changing emissions and mitigate their impact.

“We’ve got to better prepare ourselves to manage these kind of weather events, whether they are droughts, wildfires, heat waves, floods, and that means in terms of emergency management in providing the kind of health assistance that you need in the aftermath of those kinds of events.”

The 2011 weather extremes could be the “new normal,” says Vaccaro with the National Weather Service. The agency is taking steps to build a weather-ready nation, which calls on a growing network of partners in the public and private sector to work together to prepare for future disasters.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs