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Friday, March 18, 2016

Joe Romm: Hottest Winter On Record By Far Drives Devastating Weather Disasters Globally

by Joe Romm, Climate Progress, March 17, 2016

December 2015 through February 2016 was the hottest meteorological winter ever by far, topping the previous record by a jaw-dropping half a degree Fahrenheit. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that this winter was a remarkable 2.03 °F above the 20th century average.
This extreme warmth — caused primarily by the accelerating human-caused global warming trend (with a boost from El Niño) — is a key reason a number of countries have already “set records for the all-time most expensive weather-related disaster in their nations’ history” this year, as meteorologist Jeff Masters has explained.
We already knew from NASA surface temperature data and from the satellite data that this was the hottest February on record by far. Indeed, every database confirms that February was the most extreme deviation from “normal” temperatures ever recorded for any month!
NOAA’s latest monthly “State of the Climate” report reveals just how hot temperatures over land were, as recorded by the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN), an “integrated database of climate summaries from land surface stations across the globe.” NOAA reports that “a total of 115 individual GHCN stations from 38 countries across all inhabited continents and several island nations set new February high temperature records.”
The Earth’s landmasses were so hot in February that NOAA reports these stunning facts:
The February globally-averaged land surface temperature was 4.16 °F (2.31 °C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for February in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous records set in 1998 and 2015 by 1.13 °F (0.63 °C).
Yes, last month beat the all time record for hottest February over land by a staggering 1.13 °F.
Because of such scorching heat in February and indeed all winter, it’s no surprise that a number of countries saw record-setting weather-related natural disasters.
“According to the February 2016 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield, three nations suffered extreme weather disasters in February 2016 that cost at least 4% of their GDP — roughly the equivalent of what in the U.S. would be five simultaneous Hurricane Katrinas,” Jeff Masters and and Bob Henson explain at Weather Underground:
The three unlucky nations that suffered their most expensive weather-related natural disasters ever are Vietnam, Zimbabwe, and Fiji:
  • “Vietnam has suffered $6.7 billion in damage from its 2016 drought, which has hit farmers especially hard in the crucial southern Mekong Delta. This cost is approximately 4% of Vietnam’s GDP, and beats the $785 million cost (2009 USD) of Typhoon Ketsana of September 28, 2009, for most expensive disaster in their history.”
  • “Zimbabwe has suffered $1.6 billion in damage from its 2016 drought [with more than a quarter of the population facing food shortages]. This is approximately 12% of their GDP, and beats the $200 million cost (2003 USD) of a February 2003 flood for most expensive disaster in their history.”
  • “Fiji suffered $470 million in damage from Category 5 Cyclone Winston’s impact in February [peak strength 185 mph winds]. This is approximately 10% of their GDP. The previous costliest disaster in Fiji was Tropical Cyclone Kina in January 1993, at $182 million (2016 USD) in damage.”
Given that this month looks to be headed toward the hottest March on record by far — and given that it would surprise no one if this were the hottest spring on record by far — much more such extreme weather disasters are yet to come.
It’s worth remembering, though, that however bad it gets this year, if we don’t continue to sharply reverse global emissions trends, then our current extreme weather will simply be the norm by mid-century — and it will be considered mild by century’s end.

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