The year 2017 was the costliest ever for weather and climate disasters in the United States, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday, totaling $306 billion. The previous record year, 2005, saw $215 billion in disasters.
Three storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria all landed in the top five on NOAA’s updated list of the costliest U.S. tropical cyclones, released last week.
Highlighted by a string of hurricanes that pounded the southeastern U.S. coast in August and September, as well as devastating wildfires that torched large swaths of Northern and Southern California, 2017 saw 16 weather events that each topped a billion dollars in damage.
This ties 2011 for the most billion-dollar weather events to occur in a single year, but their extreme nature and the breadth of disaster types really set last year apart.
“In 2017, we have seen the rare combination of high disaster frequency, disaster cost and diversity of weather and climate extreme events,” said Adam Smith, lead researcher at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
“The U.S. has endured billion-dollar impacts from six of the seven disaster categories we track,” he said: drought, flood, freeze, severe storm, tropical cyclone, wildfire and winter storm. There hasn’t been a year when all seven disaster categories have seen a billion-dollar disaster.
2017 lacked only a billion-dollar winter storm — though we almost certainly had one in the first week of 2018 with the major nor’easter termed a “bomb cyclone.”
A hurricane season for the record books
Hurricanes are the costliest weather events, responsible for about half of the total losses among all U.S. billion-dollar disasters despite accounting for less than 20% of the total events since 1980.
This certainly proved true in 2017, when the U.S. and the Caribbean islands endured back-to-back-to-back devastating hurricanes — all of them now ranking among the top five costliest disasters — which were the main drivers behind the year becoming the costliest on record.
Here are the top ten costliest U.S. hurricanes (adjusted for inflation):
10. Rita (2005)
9. Wilma (2005)
8. Ivan (2004)
7. Ike (2008)
6. Andrew (1992)
5. Irma (2017)
4. Sandy (2012)
3. Maria (2017)
2. Harvey (2017)
1. Katrina (2005)
For the complete list, see the NOAA report.
CNN contributed to this article.
The year 2017 was the costliest ever for weather and climate disasters in the United States, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday, totaling $306 billion. The previous record year, 2005, saw $215 billion in disasters. Three storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria all landed in the top five on NOAA’s updated list of the costliest U.S. tropical cyclones, released last week. Highlighted by a string of hurricanes that pounded the southeastern U.S. coast in August and September, as well […]
All I could think of was….. say my name. Say my name. In the pounding surf, in the wind shivering the palms. In the quiet of your arms. Say my name. It has been a total of 168 Days since Hurricane Maria made landfall & 182 Days since Hurricane Irma made landfall on the island […]
This 2017 video from Fiji is called Vatuvara Private Islands.
22 Nov 2017
Exploring the untouched island of Vatuvara
This is the first time a full biological survey has ever been performed on this remote, almost untouched island in the South Pacific. The intriguing and fascinating results have redoubled the Vatuvara Foundation’s efforts to safeguard this lush wildlife haven.
By Steve Cranwell
The island of Vatuvara perfectly embodies the intrigue and beauty of the South Pacific islands. Located in the north of Fiji’s Lau group, the 800-hectare island has been uninhabited for most of human history. This is due in part to the absence of a permanent water source – but the sharp, unforgiving coral terrain certainly doesn’t help.
For a time, the island hosted a fortified village atop the 300-metre summit – no doubt a strategic lookout point for Fijian warriors. But apart from a desperate attempt at coconut production during Fiji’s plantation era, Vatuvara has largely been spared the impacts of human influence. And that includes many invasive species common on other South Pacific islands – making Vatuvara an invaluable refuge for wildlife.
Despite the detailed knowledge of the indigenous Fijians, practically the only formal scientific account of the island comes from the remarkable Whitney Expeditions, which visited Fiji in 1924, identifying the endemic Fiji Banded Iguana Brachylophus fasciatus among other native flora and fauna species.
Now under the care of Vatuvara Private Islands, the island is protected as a nature reserve. In November, BirdLife International Pacific, together with NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (BirdLife in Fiji) and the US Geological Survey, joined the Vatuvara Foundation to conduct a pioneering four-day survey.
The survey initially focused on the island’s reptiles, in particular the Banded Iguana – currently threatened with extinction – and a snake, the Pacific Boa Candoia bibroni. During the night, several sleeping reptiles were stealthily extracted from the branches above for identification.
Coconut crabs Birgus latro proved to be a very visible part of the island fauna. Although active throughout the day, it was at night that the forest came alive to a slow, deliberate dance as the world’s largest arthropods (weighing up to 4kg and a metre from leg to leg) shuffled about the forest floor, or climbed trees and vertical rock faces in search of sustenance. Once common throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, these unique, long lived terrestrial crabs, who can survive for 40-60 years, are under threat. Considered a local delicacy, crab populations are now increasingly confined to remote inaccessible islands or locally protected areas.
Vatuvara is an island for birds. Dawn and dusk resounded to a cacophony of calls as the Wattled Honeyeater Foulehaio carunculatus, along with the 20 other species we identified, made their presence known. Almost all were forest birds, a validation of the quality of Vatuvara’s forest. A particularly encouraging sighting was the Shy Ground Dove Alopecoenas stairi, threatened with extinction elsewhere due to introduced predators such as feral cats and rats.
In terms of invasive species, no evidence of cats, pigs, goats, Black rats Rattus rattus, mongoose, invasive ants or any of Fiji’s usual suspects could be found. However, the Pacific rat Rattus exulans was present. This non-native rat predates small birds and their eggs, as well as many of Fiji’s invertebrates and fauna.
All good surveys pose as many questions as they answer, and something of a surprise for Vatuvara was the notable absence of seabirds, generating numerous hypotheses, including what influence Coconut Crabs may pose. Ornithologist Vilikesa Masibalavu also noted an unusual phenomenon among the Island’s Fiji Whistlers Pachycephala vitiensis. They weren’t hard to find – but they were strangely silent, and not a single male could be found.
While much still remains to be discovered on Vatuvara, the survey highlighted the Island’s vital importance to Fiji’s natural history. It was found to hold a wealth of diverse native plants and wildlife increasingly under threat on other islands. Future work will build on this baseline, tracking trends in birds, coconut crabs and reptiles and ensuring harmful invasive species don’t establish. In protecting the island, the Vatuvara Foundation have made a visionary commitment to safeguarding a crucial haven for Fiji’s wildlife.
This 2017 video from Fiji is called Vatuvara Private Islands. From BirdLife: 22 Nov 2017 Exploring the untouched island of Vatuvara This is the first time a full biological survey has ever been performed on this remote, almost untouched island in the South Pacific. The intriguing and fascinating results have redoubled the Vatuvara Foundation’s efforts […]
The Environmental Protection Agency has published a list of 10 toxic threats it will evaluate first under a law passed last year intended to crack down on hazardous chemicals. They are among 90 chemicals identified by the agency that may harm children, damage nerve tissue, cause cancer, contaminate the environment, accumulate in the bloodstream or show up in consumer products. As the review begins, industry and other interest groups are urging the E.P.A. to limit any restrictions.
Where you may find it: Asbestos has not been manufactured in the United States since 2002, but imports surged last year, and it is still used in certain vehicle braking systems, asphalt roof coatings and gaskets. Asbestos is also commonly used by chlorine manufacturers.
How it could hurt you: Asbestos is associated with lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lung, heart, chest and abdomen.
Industry intervention: The trade group representing the chlorine industry, the American Chemistry Council, argues that “the few remaining uses for asbestos are tightly controlled,” and that banning it would not do much to protect health.
Where you may find it: 1-bromopropane is used as a refrigerant, a lubricant, a degreaser and a solvent in spray adhesives and dry cleaning. Its use in agricultural chemical manufacturing and foam-cushion manufacturing has also been reported.
How it could hurt you: Exposure can cause dizziness, headaches, slurred speech, confusion, muscle twitching, difficulty walking and loss of consciousness. Studies on animals suggest that exposure is also associated with reduced blood cell counts along with toxicity to the liver and the reproductive and nervous systems.
Industry intervention: The Alkylphenols & Ethoxylates Research Council, which represents companies that manufacture the chemical, arguethat the E.P.A. should not consider health threats that occur when people do not follow warning labels.
Where you may find it: Carbon tetrachloride, a clear liquid with a sweet smell, was once used in refrigeration fluids, aerosol propellants, pesticides, cleaning fluids, spot removers and degreasing agents. Most of those uses have been banned, but it is still has industrial applications, such as manufacturing petrochemicals.
How it could hurt you: It can cause injuries to the liver and kidneys and, at high levels, can result in fatal damage to the brain and nervous system.
Industry intervention: Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance arguesthat worker exposures are already regulated by Labor Department safety rules and that “occupational conditions of use do not pose an unreasonable risk.”
Where you may find it: 1,4-dioxane is a flammable liquid with a variety of industrial applications, such as the manufacture of adhesives and sealants and other chemicals. It is used in paint strippers, dyes, greases, varnishes and waxes, and it can be found in antifreeze, aircraft de-icing fluids, deodorants, shampoos and cosmetics.
How it could hurt you: The E.P.A. says that the chemical is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” and that it may cause kidney and liver damage. It is now often found at low levels in drinking water supplies.
Industry intervention: The American Cleaning Institute argues that while many consumer products may have small amounts of 1,4-dioxane, they are “extraordinarily low levels” and should be ignored.
Where you may find it: Cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster is a group of chemicals found in flame retardants, plastic additives and certain polystyrene foams used in the construction industry for thermal insulation boards.
How it could hurt you: People may be exposed to the chemicals from products and dust in the home. Animal test results suggest potential reproductive, developmental and neurological effects.
Industry intervention: The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers argues that the E.P.A. should not consider “potential of an accident or misuse, whether intentional or unintentional,” when deciding to restrict these chemicals, as “misuse is not even predictable and should never be included in toxicological risk assessment.”
Where you may find it:Methylene chloride is used in pharmaceutical manufacturing and polyurethane foam manufacturing. It is also found in paint strippers, adhesives, metal cleaners and aerosol solvents. Many products are sold at home improvement stores.
How it could hurt you:Exposure can harm the central nervous system, with effects including dizziness, incapacitation and, sometimes, death. It is also linked to liver toxicity, liver cancer and lung cancer. It has been associated with dozens of deaths. The E.P.A., just days before the end of the Obama administration, proposed banning its use as a paint stripper because of these hazards.
Industry intervention: W.M. Barr & Company, the largest national manufacturer of solvents, removers, fuels and cleaning products, asked the E.P.A. to withdraw its proposed rule to ban methylene chloride in paint strippers, arguing that its products do “not present an unreasonable risk.”
Where you may find it: N-Methylpyrrolidone is a solvent used in petrochemical processing. It can be found in plastics, paints, inks, enamels, electronics, industrial and consumer cleaning products and arts and crafts materials.
Industry intervention: The NMP Manufacturers Group argues that the chemical “is used in many industry sectors, in varied processes,” and that it would be “unworkable for industry and unworkable for EPA” to evaluate them all.
Where you may find it: Perchloroethylene, also known as perc, is a solvent widely used in dry-cleaning chemicals, automotive-care products, cleaning and furniture-care products, lubricants, greases, adhesives, sealants and paints and coatings.
How it could hurt you: High-level inhalation exposure is associated with kidney dysfunction, dizziness, headache, sleepiness and unconsciousness, while long-term inhalation exposure may affect the liver, the kidneys and the immune and reproductive systems. The E.P.A. has classified it as likely to be carcinogenic to humans, as it is associated with bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also a drinking-water contaminant.
Industry intervention: The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and the National Cleaners Association argue that “any future decision to reduce or phase out the use of perc in drycleaning will put an oppressive burden on thousands of cleaners” and that “sadly, in taking any radical regulatory action the EPA will be doing little to reduce the negligible risks associated with the use, while threatening the future viability of thousands of dry cleaners.”
Where you may find it: Pigment Violet 29 is used in watercolors, acrylic paints, automotive paints, inks for printing and packaging, cleaning and washing agents, pharmaceuticals, solar cells, paper, sporting goods and industrial carpeting. It is also approved to be used in food packaging.
How it could hurt you: There are limited health studies, but preliminary work suggests “acute toxicity, eye irritation, skin irritation, skin sensitization,” and perhaps reproductive and developmental toxicity.
Industry intervention: Color Pigments Manufacturers Association argues that it “does not pose any known hazard in any reasonably foreseeable use or misuse, and therefore cannot present an unreasonable risk.”
Where you may find it: Trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, is used to make a refrigerant chemical and remove grease from metal parts. It is also a spotting agent for dry cleaning and can be found in consumer products. The E.P.A., in the final days of the Obama administration, proposed a ban on its use in dry-cleaning chemicals, spot removers and aerosol degreasers.
How it could hurt you: It is associated with cancers of the liver, kidneys and blood. Animal studies suggest that it may also be a factor in birth defects, testicular cancer, leukemia, lymphomas and lung tumors. TCE is also a drinking-water contaminant.
Industry intervention: The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, which manufactures the chemical, argues that the E.P.A. has conducted a “very deficient risk assessment.” Pointing to one study the E.P.A. has used, the group says that “a single flawed study should not be the basis for the toxicological value that serves as the basis for regulation.”
Elevated surf and strong rip currents are expected along the Orange County coast through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Ellina Abovian reports for the KTLA 5 News at 1 on Oct. 18, 2017.
SEATTLE (AP) — Endangered killer whales that frequent the inland waters of Washington state are having pregnancy problems because they cannot find enough fish to eat, according to a new study. Researchers analyzed hormones in excrement collected at sea and found that more than two-thirds of orca pregnancies failed over a seven-year period. They linked…
This March 2017 WWF video is about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It has coral bleaching problems. Related articles Coral bleaching returns to the Great Barrier Reef Global Warming Is Killing the Great Barrier Reef Great Barrier Reef could lose one million visitors annually if coral bleaching continues New coral reefs study finally gives […]
San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge has a residential group of approximately 60 protected Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtles. No one knows how they got here, but it is assumed they were caught many decades ago in Mexico, brought to the bay alive, and escaped from fishing pens, prior to being slaughtered. They settled successfully […]
Dahr Jamail | Record Heating of Earth’s Oceans Is Driving Uptick in Hurricanes http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37877-record-heating-of-earth-s-oceans-is-driving-uptick-in-hurricanes Thursday, 06 October 2016 By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report As Hurricane Matthew impacts the East Coast of the US this week, it is important to consider how rising ocean temperatures are contributing to the intensification of storms worldwide. Earlier this year, a scientific study titled […]
It’s 7:00 AM and the sun has barely broken over the horizon and clouds from the evening are gently pushed away. We are in Oahu, Hawaii’s North Shore famous for giant surfing waves but we didn’t come to watch the professionals. We arrive at Hale’iwa Harbor and see another boat load passengers with a shark cage at the end. About 10 tourist get on this boat. Within minutes a small, non-pretentious boat labeled “One Ocean Diving” appears and we know this is one to get onto. The tour size is small and intimate, accepting no more than 6 people at a time. The morning air is chilly and we’re thankful for brining wetsuits along with us given our aptitude to snorkeling in much warmer waters. The tour is managed by a captain, dive master, and intern.
We are one of the first to board the boat, nervously checking our surroundings Doug asks the captain, “Is that other boat with a cage going to see a different type of shark than we are or are they going somewhere else?” The young captain replies back “No, they are going to see the same sharks, but we are ones crazy enough to do it without a cage.”
Hayley, our dive master gives us a shark briefing as we pull out of the harbor. Things that could make an already nervous me want to go back to the safety of shore: “The most dangerous part of today’s tour is walking around on this boat” (yeah right). “Sharks have 6 senses so try not to splash or make a lot of noise as this can excite the sharks” (like prey struggling to get out of the water). “No shark selfies, sharks are intelligent and can sneak up behind you” (stalking human pray). The pep talk wasn’t really working or maybe I was too focused on staying alive.
Our little boat rolls over huge swells coming out of the harbor and I wonder how we’re expected to snorkel in these conditions. About 15 minutes the boat slows and engine is turned off. A buoy is thrown over and as we halt, I peer over the railing and see the light grey body of a Galapagos shark magnified through the water. I’m thinking, “what did I sign myself up for?” Despite my body and mind telling me to turn back to safety, I didn’t come all this way to back out now.
The 2nd batch of swimmers to go into the water I follow Hayley’s instructions to a t. The first look into the water and I’m amazed at the amount of detail. The sharks swim effortlessly through endless blue ocean and we are so close, I can make eye contact. It’s truly an unforgettable experience that was worth every doubt you may have.
1. Sharks swim in order of dominance
The most dominant sharks swim at the top of the surface with the least dominant at the bottom. If you remain at the top of surface, you’re indicating that you’re at the top of food chain.
2. Sharks have 6 senses
Sharks additional sense is electricity and vibrations in the water. The sharks we saw knew the boat was in their territory 1 mi before we reached. Sharks can get excited if there are a lot of vibrations so it’s recommended not to splash and attract too much attention.
3. Sharks are respectful of your space
So long as you make eye contact with them (especially the dominant ones), they are respectful of your space. They don’t see you as a food source or easy target, but rather they are curious about you.
4. A simple buoy in the water attracts an ecosystem
A buoy placed in the middle of the ocean is like a palm tree in a desert. The shrimp are attracted to the surface, the fish are attracted to the shrimp and the sharks are attracted to the fish.
5. Sharks need to keep swimming or else they would suffocate
Sharks need to have water constantly running through their gills so to sleep, sharks will find a current so that water keeps passing through their gills with minimal effort.
So, if you’ve reached the end of this article and you can’t wait to check it out yourself, here’s what you need to know:
Where: North Shore, Oahu through One Ocean Diving
Cost: ~170 USD per person
When to go: ideally book the morning slot because this is when the sharks are most active
Pro tip: if your itinerary is flexible, call One Ocean Diving ahead of time to find out when the conditions will be best for snorkeling
Why we love this company: One Ocean Diving is a research facility and in addition to swimming with the sharks, you get a crash course of shark 101. The sharks are 100% wild and they do not feed or lure the sharks to tourist.
The solace of empty places and open spaces…
(Except for the guest photo and video at the end of this blog post, I took these whale shots over the last three weeks from the boardwalk of Long Beach, NY) They sing songs 20 minutes long for hours, they leap over their water-stage and pirouette in aerial grace. They are the humpback whales off […]
Antarctic sea ice retreat could set stage for ice shelf collapses Staff ReportMonths of above-average temperatures in the Arctic slowed the growth of sea ice formation to a crawl during the second half of October, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported in its latest monthly update.The ice scientists said that, starting Oct. 20, […]