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Helping To Wrap Minds Around Billion-Dollar Natural Disasters

July 9, 2018

It almost seems mundane to hear daily about the brave battles being fought against sweeping catastrophic forest fires in the wilderness and rural areas of California, Colorado and other western states; but do we know the extent of them? July 6, 2018 Nicole Rojas reported for Newsweek “More than 60 large wildfires are burning throughout the United States, particularly in the West.”

Wildfires summer 2018

“The County Fire in California and the Spring Creek Fire in Colorado are the largest fires currently
burning in the western United States. INCIWEB.” http://www.newsweek.com/wildfires-2018…

As eyebrow raising as this may be, libraries ought to inform patrons about the bigger picture by engaging our communities in public awareness about how the United States increasingly confronts billion-dollar natural disasters. For example, it was reported last month that the financial cost of California’s PG & E wildfire last fall, “will probably exceed $2.5 billion” (Dale Kasler, “Biggest disaster ever?” June 21, 2018, The Sacramento Bee, https://www.sacbee.com/latest-news/article213580349.html).

In fact, at the beginning of 2018 it was already estimated that the previous year was one of the costliest on record, exceeding $300 billion in direct damages. See: Adam B. Smith, “2017 U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: a historic year in context,” January 8, 2018, Beyond the Data, Climate.gov, NOAA.

2017 disasters

“This map depicts the general location of the sixteen weather and climate disasters assessed to cause
at least one billion dollars in direct damages during 2017.” https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/beyond-data/2017-us-billion-dollar-weather-and-climate-disasters…

Although 2017 was a particularly devastating year due to natural disasters in the U. S. it was not a singularity as demonstrated by a suite of easy to use Web tools made available by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), including mapping, summary stats and more which cover the period of 1980-2018. Explore: Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters, https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 21, 2018 12:50 am

    I was a little late reading this, but it caught my eye because I lived in California for ten years. People would ask me, “Aren’t you afraid of earthquakes?” and I really wasn’t, but I was terrified of fires. The climate there is so different from Pennsylvania, that it is hard to imagine how terrible these fires really are.

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