The year 2021 was marked by extremes across the United States, including exceptionally hot, devastating severe weather, and the second-highest number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters on record.
The nation also experienced a year of active wildfires in the West, as the North Atlantic basin remained busy with its third most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, scientists say. NOAA National Environmental Information Centers.
Here is a recap of the climate and extreme weather events in the United States in 2021:
The climate in figures
December 2021 | All year 2021
The contiguous United States temperature in December was 39.3 degrees F, 6.7 degrees above average, making it the hottest December on record and surpassing the previous hottest December in 2015.
Ten states – Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas – also had their hottest December months on record. .
For 2021, the contiguous average temperature in the United States was 54.5 degrees F, 2.5 degrees above the 20th century average and ranked as the fourth warmest year of the period. 127 year record. The six hottest years on record have all been since 2012.
Maine and New Hampshire experienced their second warmest year on record with 19 other northeastern, Great Lakes, Plains and Western states experiencing one of the five warmest years. Meanwhile, Alaska’s average annual temperature was 26.4 degrees F, 0.4 degrees above the long-term average and the coldest year since 2012.
Precipitation across the contiguous United States totaled 30.48 inches (0.54 inches above average), placing 2021 in the middle third of the climate record. Massachusetts experienced its ninth-wettest year on record, while Montana ranked ninth-driest on record for 2021.
Drought coverage has remained fairly high and stable for much of 2021, according to the US Drought Monitor, with a minimum extent of 43.4% occurring on May 25 and maximum coverage of 55.5% on December 7.
Billion dollar disasters in 2021
Last year, the United States experienced 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that killed at least 688 people – the highest number of disaster-related deaths for the contiguous United States since 2011 and more double the number of 262 last year. The following 20 events, each exceeding $ 1 billion, places 2021 in second place for the most disasters recorded in a calendar year, behind the record of 22 separate $ 1 billion events in 2020:
- 1 winter storm / cold snap (concentrated in the Deep South and Texas).
- 1 forest fire (forest fires in western Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington).
- 1 episode of drought and heatwave (summer / fall in the western United States).
- 2 floods (in California and Louisiana).
- 3 tornado outbreaks (including December tornado outbreaks).
- 4 tropical cyclones (Elsa, Fred, Ida and Nicholas).
- 8 severe weather events (in many parts of the country, including the December Midwestern derecho).
The damage caused by these disasters totaled approximately $ 145 billion for the 20 events. This exceeds the total damage of $ 102 billion from the 22 events of 2020.
Hurricane Ida was the costliest event of 2021 with $ 75 billion and ranks among the five costliest hurricanes on record (since 1980) for the United States. The combined cost of the four tropical systems was about $ 78.5 billion, or more than 54% of the total cost of a $ 1 billion disaster in 2021.
The historic mid-February winter storm / cold snap was the costliest winter storm on record ($ 24 billion), more than double the previous record winter storm – the Storm of the Century in March 1993.
The total cost over the last five years of these disasters (2017-2021) exceeds $ 742 billion, or an average of $ 148 billion per year. These five-year and annual average costs have both reached record highs.
Other notable climatic and meteorological events in 2021
The Atlantic hurricane season has been busy: In 2021, 21 named storms formed in the North Atlantic basin. It was the third most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. Category 4 Hurricane Sam was the most intense Atlantic hurricane of the season, while Category 4 Hurricane Ida was the strongest and most destructive hurricane of the season. It was the sixth consecutive year with above-average tropical activity in the Atlantic Basin.
Numerous forest fires have ravaged the West: More than 7.1 million acres were burned in the western United States last year, 96% of the 10-year average. The second largest fire in California history, the Dixie Fire, consumed nearly 964,000 acres in 2021. Smoke from several large fires has created air quality and health concerns for much of it. of the season.
An active tornado year: The tornado count for 2021 was above average in the contiguous United States, with 1,376 tornadoes reported. As of January 2022, 193 tornadoes had been confirmed in December alone – the highest number of tornadoes on record for a December and almost double the previous record of 97 in 2002.
The most notable events during the year were two outbreaks on March 17 and 25 in the south, with a combined total of around 100 tornadoes, including an EF-4 tornado, which hit Iowa on July 14. , December 10 and 11. -The Mississippi River Valley tornado event that spawned two EF-4 tornadoes and the December 15 Midwestern echo event that produced over 60 tornadoes across Nebraska and Iowa.
Following: Find the NOAA climate reports and download the images from the NCEI climate monitoring website.
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