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2011 breaks U.S. record for costly weather disasters

Wildfires, hurricane, blizzard top extreme conditions

Twelve weather disasters causing $1 billion or more in damage hit the United States in 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday, making this year’s weather the most extreme on record.

That’s more billion-dollar catastrophes in one year than the United States saw in the entire decade of the 1980s, even after the figures are adjusted for inflation, The Associated Press reported.

Previously, the biggest year for billion-dollar weather disasters was 2008, which had nine, the AP reported.

The disasters that made this year’s billion dollar list include the Groundhog Day blizzard that hit half the country in early February, Hurricane Irene in August and the wildfires that raged in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona from the spring to the fall.

All told, the billion-dollar disasters cost $52 billion and killed 1,000 people, National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes said, according to the AP.

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco told the Houston Chronicle that the length of this year’s list of billion-dollar disasters is due to several factors, including a larger population in the United States; more people living in harm’s way, particularly along the coasts; more people with insurable property; and more extreme weather stemming from climate change.

“We have good reason to believe that what happened this year is not an anomaly, but instead is a harbinger of what is to come,” Lubchenco told the Houston Chronicle.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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Courtesy Kresent Gurtler

The Monument Fire burns near Sierra Vista on June 15.