No, you’re not imagining it. 2011 has been rife with extreme weather events. There have, in fact, been 2,941 monthly weather records broken in the U.S. this year—549 snowfall records, 1,090 rainfall records, and 1,302 heat-related records. The NRDC’s extreme weather map (time-lapse version available here) makes the rash of weather events seem all the more real.
No part of the U.S. was spared from extreme weather this year. Nevada saw four broken heat records, seven broken rainfall records, and three broken snowfall records. On the other side of the country, Pennsylvania saw 44 broken heat records, 55 broken rainfall records, and 49 broken September records, and the wettest September ever recorded.
These events haven’t just been an inconvenience; they have cost billions of dollars in agriculture and health consequences alone. Damage from wildfires, heat waves, and droughts in the Southwest alone has led to $10 billion in direct losses from cattle, agriculture, and structures. Midwest and Mississippi River flooding combined with Hurricane Irene incurred $20 billion in costs and took 60 lives.
Can any one of these events be conclusively linked to climate change? Not likely. Still, it’s not every year that the U.S. breaks nearly 3,000 weather records. It probably won’t be the last, especially if the world’s governments continue to drag their feet on climate change mitigation.