2011: A Year of Firsts Remembered

- 2011-12-27T21:23:41Z

Photograph by Eric Gay/AP Photo

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Billion-Dollar Disasters

At least 12 U.S. natural disasters each caused a minimum of $1 billion in damage and unprecedented loss of human life. A few of them cost much more than that, and in the case of Texas, drought persists. The number of billion-dollar storms will probably reach 14, with a total cost of more than $50 billion, once the final numbers are counted. That's up from eight storms in 2008, the previous high. Extreme weather disasters have been increasing since 1970, based on records going back to 1910. It's a trend that's "virtually certain" to continue, according to a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Rising global temperatures warm seas and put more water vapor in the air, intensifying storms. Climate change also exacerbates the impact of drought, heat waves and wildfires.