2020 Took Weather to New Extremes

By Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow.

As most of us are breathing a sigh of relief that 2020 is over, many meteorologists are doing the same thing. The year featured devastating wildfires and hurricanes, tornadoes, derechos and flooding, and just about everything else the atmosphere has to offer.

Wildfires and hurricanes were relentless and especially punishing, setting records for the amount of real estate they affected in the Lower 48, while killing dozens. Supercharged by human-caused climate change, they signaled trouble for the future as the climate warms further.

A year filled with extreme weather meant a hefty price tag: Insurance firm Aon estimates that at least 25 separate billion-dollar weather disasters unfolded across the United States this year.

“The United States has endured one of its costliest years for weather disasters on record and is facing an economic toll that will exceed $100 billion,” Steven Bowen, head of catastrophe insight at Aon, wrote in an email.

Fire Season

Fueled by record heat and parched vegetation, fanned by howling winds and, at times, sparked by blitzes of lightning, the West was plagued by an onslaught of devastating wildfires that began in June and continued into December.

The fires occurred in a region that is trending hotter, drier and more susceptible to large blazes due to climate change. In California, which saw a record wildfire season, a study published in August showed that the frequency of fall days with extreme fire-weather conditions has already more than doubled since the 1980s.

READ MORE at washingtonpost.com