The Weather Is Getting More Expensive

Oklahoma tornadoes just the latest billion-dollar disaster
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2013 12:26 PM CDT
US Air Force personnel help a resident in Moore, Okla., search through the debris looking for salvageable items.   (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

(Newser) – The bill from the Oklahoma tornado is now expected to top $2 billion in damages, making it the latest member of the rapidly growing billion-dollar weather-disaster club, the New Yorker observes. In a recent study, climate scientists found that billion-dollar-plus disasters (among them Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and the 2011 Texas wildfires) are happening more and more frequently, and quantified that frequency: It's increasing at the rate of 4.8% each year.

Still, that doesn't necessarily mean that we're seeing more instances of extreme weather, just that the extreme weather we are seeing has better aim—striking more populated areas. Last year, for instance, saw a decade-low in the number of tornadoes, yet six of them caused more than a billion dollars in damage. (Compare that to the 1980s, in which just 20 disasters, adjusted, hit the billion-dollar threshold.) The Oklahoma tornado appears, if the $2 billion figure is about right, to be one of the most expensive tornadoes in US history, NBC News reports, having affected as many as 13,000 homes. (The Joplin tornado cost $2.8 billion.)

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