North America Hit Hardest by Natural Disasters in 2017

The death toll may be down, but that's not a reason to get lazy about climate change.

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Image via Getty/Joe Raedle

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Despite what Trump may be tweeting, climate change is real and natural disasters are a logical consequence of this phenomenon, which, for the record, humans plays a part in. Blame it on 45’s denial-ist karma or just bad luck, but North America took quite the beating from Mother Nature in 2017, more so than other continents.

California was lit–like on fire all the time. Mexico was struck by back-to-back earthquakes. And hurricanes literally took the Caribbean by storm. While the numbers indicate that there were fewer natural disasters around the globe this year (250 compared to the 325 average) and that these disasters took fewer lives this year than on average, the economic toll was much higher. The hurricanes in the U.S. and Caribbean alone accounted for $215 billion in damages. According to insurance company Munich Re, it’s a new record. National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini confirmed, “It’s certainly one of the worst hurricane seasons we’ve had.”

What’s been described as a “quiet year” by Debarati Guha Sapir, who heads up the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the University of Louvain in Belgium, was only really quiet depending on where you live. And as Sapir warns, “The thing is not to be… complacent about this.” Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria accounted for 4 of the 6 major Atlantic hurricanes, when the average is 2.7. From private calculations, Harvey has outranked Katrina as the costliest hurricane in the U.S. And the real economic and human toll of those disasters that swept the Caribbean, is still unknown.

The important thing to remember in all this, is that even if deaths from natural disasters are down, and the number of them is lower all the same, human beings are playing a part in the damage. So we can be grateful, but not careless. As Uccellini of the National Weather Service notes, the onslaught of particularly damaging hurricanes this year can be attributed to warmer (W-A-R-M-E-R, for the folks in the back and in the White House) than normal waters and unusual steering currents.

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