This year has been noteworthy for the number of extreme events across the U.S. In fact, we have had 12 disasters that have exceeded $1 billion in losses each in 2011. We also experienced some $50 billion in total losses for the year. And that is with a fairly quiet hurricane season. Some of those billion dollar disasters had direct impacts on Illinois, including the February blizzard, and the spring flooding.
You can read more about the major disasters this year at http://www.noaa.gov/extreme2011/
NOAA is promoting a new concept called a “Weather Ready Nation”. The idea is to be better prepared and to better respond to weather/climate disasters. This involves better forecasts, better dissemination of forecasts, and closer working relationships among federal, state, and local partners. I’m sure we will hear more about this in coming months.
[Update: The method used to generate the bar-plot part of this graph is apparently flawed. While the line plots show both actual damages and damages adjusted for the Consumer Price Index, they did not make a similar adjustment on the number of 1 billion dollar event. As a result, the number of 1 billion dollar events will climb as prices climb (for example, the destroyed $100k home in 1980 would be worth $250k in 2011). See http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2012/01/bad-economics-at-noaa.html.]