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Texas Tops 10 States Ravaged by Extreme Weather in 2011

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By: Andrew Freedman, Alyson Kenward and Mike Lemonick

Texas, Alabama and Missouri topped the list of states hardest hit by the unrelenting assault of extreme weather in 2011.

Severe weather across much of the nation has raised the question of whether global warming has already begun to influence shorter-term weather patterns, and the specter of even more extreme years to come as global temperatures continue to rise. 

STATES OF DISASTER: TOP 10 STATES 

No. 1-  Texas
No. 2-  Alabama
No. 3-  Missouri
No. 4-  North Carolina
No. 5-  Oklahoma
No. 6-  Tennessee
No. 7-  Kansas
No. 8-  Connecticut
No. 9-  Vermont
No. 10-  New Jersey

According to climate studies, the short answer is yes: the new climate environment created by global warming is more conducive to some extreme events, particularly heat waves and heavy precipitation events: these are now more likely to occur and be more intense when they do take place. Climate models have more difficulty predicting how climate change may be influencing other types of extremes, such as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, but a warming climate provides more fuel to these events in the form of increased water vapor and heat in the atmosphere.

And those extreme events -- searing heat waves, parching drought, deadly tornadoes, blizzards and floods -- cost billions of dollars in damage, affected millions of lives and tragically, killed more than a thousand people across the U.S.

By some measures, 2011 was the most extreme year for the U.S. since reliable record-keeping began in the 19thcentury -- and the costs have been enormous: according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 set a record for the most billion dollar disasters in a single year. There were 12, breaking the old record of nine set in 2009. The aggregate damage from these 12 events totals at least $52 billion, NOAA found.

While extreme weather knows no boundaries, and the impact of those events was felt coast to coast, Climate Central looked at the number of extreme events that affected each state to determine the 10 states that were clobbered the worst. According to Climate Central’s analysis, Texas tops that list of hardest hit, with a costly -- and deadly -- combination of intense drought, a punishing heat wave, the worst wildfires in state history, and plenty of tornadoes. Rounding out the top 10 was Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey. 

Climate Central’s analysis factored the death toll in each state, damage costs, the disruption caused to daily life, and how unusual the events were compared with what transpires in an average year.

 But for these 10 states, little of what transpired was average as extreme weather rewrote the record books in 2011. 

(Read our state by state analysis by following the page links below) 

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Comments

By Peter Mizla
on December 20th, 2011

I live in Connecticut- and we have been hit by 3 weather events of such, that in most of the years I have lived here- where extraordinary. The scary thought is is; this is the ‘new norm’- and what will be the new extreme?

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By John Russell (Devon, UK)
on December 21st, 2011

Scientists need to prioritise research on, and demonstrating links between, extreme weather events and global warming. This ‘missing link’, if it can be proved, is our best chance of convincing people that we have to start doing something about curbing GHG emissions. 

Denial will not survive in the face of extreme weather that is affecting people’s lives more than they seem to believe green policies will.

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By Michael Givel (Norman, Oklahoma, 73072)
on December 24th, 2011

On the other hand, according to a number of the Oklahoma political class, social elite, and the 1% (particularly as a rabidly pro-oil reality), there is no such thing as scientific claims of global climate change. This view is now just not an argument or a self-interested talking point designed to keep big oil safe from more regulations and taxes. It is a governmental policy that is detrimental to the greater good of Oklahoma. Who can forget, for example, the famous line earlier this year by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin who told the state to “pray” in the middle of the severe heat and drought? Praying as we know and as was quickly forgotten by many did not do anything.

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By Derek (Skiatook,OK,USA)
on February 4th, 2012

I am 29 years old and Oklahoma to me had the most extreme weather changes of 2011.  There is only one year I can remember that could come close, but not worse than was 1990. I was in 7th grade and it was a hot 93degree day at school, but gusty sustained winds of 50 MPH. Later on that night severe storms hit our area in north central oklahoma and a tonado blew our whole town away and then to top it off we had 10 inches of snow with it being 17 degrees the next afternoon. Anyways 2011 was even more extreme to me because our town in january had one storm drop 25 inches of snow and reach -14 degrees than a week and half later we had 27 inches of snow and was -30 degrees which the state record for the day was -31. Then 3 weeks later it was 89 degrees and sunny. Tornado season wasnt the most extreme, but the summer had yet shown itself to us. With our highest temputure reaching 117 with some humidity. It was horrible than to have a 5.9 earthquake to top it all off just shows how extreme Oklahoma weather can be. So in saying we had the coldest recordings ever, most snow, largest hail 6”, fastest wind speed, lowest temp, largest earthquake and the worst drought since 1921 right before the worst drought ever known. It makes you wonder what can be happening and I have thought through everything and maybe we are recycling back to the dirty 30’s. We are very tough people here and would not trade it for the world. We will make it through anything. On the last note I can remember one summer night there were millions of locusts all over the roads and were flying and landing all over you. People were hitting running over them like candy in a parade. Something is changing and we will make it through.

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