2018 Could See the Most Natural Disasters in History
If 2017's influx of catastrophic hurricanes didn't make you believe in deus-ex machina, remember that money talks. Last year, the U.S. spent more on natural disaster relief than ever before.
According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, we spent more than $306.2 billion dollars last year to clean up 16 major weather and climate events. That's nearly double the average amount of about six disasters per year that's been on record since 1980, a number has been climbing steadily over the past five years.
Each of the 16 disasters this year exceeded $1 billion in losses, prompting the NCEI to coin 2017 the year of "billion-dollar disasters." These events included one drought, two floods, one freeze event, eight severe storms, three tropical cyclones, and one wildfire.
By exceeding $300 in cumulative costs, this year went on record as the costliest in history, surpassing the previous annual record cost of $214.8 billion we spent in 2005, a year that saw catastrophic impacts of Hurricanes Dennis, Wilma, Rita and Katrina.
"Some of the more noteworthy events included the western wildfire season, with total costs of $18 billion, tripling the previous U.S. annual wildfire cost record," reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Hurricane Harvey had total costs of $125 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina in the 38-year period of record for billion-dollar disasters. Hurricanes Maria and Irma had total costs of $90 billion and $50 billion, respectively. Hurricane Maria now ranks as the third costliest weather and climate disaster on record for the nation and Irma ranks as the fifth costliest."
Some predict that volcanic eruptions will soon be on the rise, too. Remember that intense, fiery eruption of Bali's Mount Agung last November? Researchers found a direct link between the frequency of those eruptions and climate change, as a rapidly heating earth melts the glaciers that help volcanic mountains keep their cool.
In even more good news, scientists also predict that 2018 will see a steady rise in the frequency of earthquakes.
Earth's rotation will likely slow about a millisecond every day—nothing noticeable to us, but enough to cause our planet to shift around a little too much. Last year, researchers in Colorado found a pattern of five-year periods where the number of earthquakes rises dramatically, always immediately following a drop in the speed of Earth's rotation.
Without getting too political here, the science is indisputable. According to the NOAA, 2017 was the third-warmest year on record in the U.S. Five states had their warmest year ever last year, too.