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Year has been full of extremes in disasters for U.S.

WASHINGTON — Nature is pummeling the United States this year with extremes.

Unprecedented triple-digit heat and devastating drought. Deadly tornadoes leveling towns. Massive rivers overflowing. A billion-dollar blizzard. And now, unusual hurricane-caused flooding in Vermont.

If what's falling from the sky isn't enough, the ground shook in places that normally seem stable: Colorado and the entire East Coast. On Friday, a quake triggered brief tsunami warnings in Alaska. Arizona and New Mexico have broken records for wildfires.

Total weather losses top $35 billion, and that's not counting Hurricane Irene, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. There have been more than 700 U.S. disaster and weather deaths, most from the tornado outbreaks this spring.

Last year, the world seemed to go wild with natural disasters in the deadliest year in a generation. But 2010 was bad globally, and the United States was mostly spared.

This year, the United States has had a record 10 weather catastrophes costing more than a billion dollars: five separate tornado outbreaks, two different major river floods in the Upper Midwest and the Mississippi River, drought in the Southwest and a blizzard that crippled the Midwest and Northeast, and Irene.

What's happening, say experts, is mostly random chance or bad luck. But there is something more to it, many of them say. Man-made global warming is increasing the odds of getting a bad roll of the dice.

Year has been full of extremes in disasters for U.S. 09/04/11 [Last modified: Sunday, September 4, 2011 12:17am]

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