January 12

Do You Live In One of America’s Riskiest Counties? Record 22 Billion-Dollar Disasters in 2020 Across USA

Header Photo Credit: Paul Douglas

A Thaw, Then Accumulating Snow Late Week

Minnesota sees its fair share of gasp-worthy weather, but don’t let anyone living in Miami, L.A. or Lincoln give you a hard time. According to FEMA’s National Risk Index, overall threats are greater across the central Plains (tornadoes), coastal areas (hurricanes), and some counties on the west coast, prone to both fire and quakes.

Since 1991, January has been the snowiest month of the year for the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota. Across roughly the northern half of the state December is the snowiest month, according to climate analyst Brian Brettschneider.


Numbing End to January. Which isn’t all that unusual, frankly. But the mild, Pacific “signal” is about to be disrupted by a pattern change – we’ll see if the cold air lingers or if stronger jet stream winds continue to keep the coldest air of winter bottled up to our north (most of the time).

Brian Brettschneider, Twitter

Paul Douglas

Warm Start to 2021. We will see more cold fronts (no kidding) but a mild, Pacific bias continues to show up on our maps. Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Mark Seeley at Minnesota WeatherTalk: “The persistent warmth which started in November and carried on in December is continuing into the year 2021. For the first full week of the year temperatures have average 8 to 17 degrees F above normal across the state, with the largest deviations in northern Minnesota. International Falls has seen daily deviations as high as 26°F above normal. The largest daily deviation from normal temperatures occurred on January 4th. In fact, some daily record temperature values were set that day within the state climate network. New daytime maximum temperature records were reported from several locations, including: 45°F at Cass Lake, 40°F at Kabetogama and 39°F at Hibbing...”

A map of the United States plotted with the locations and dates for the record-breaking 22 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that stuck the country in 2020. (See article text and NCEI report link for details about each event.

Record Number of Billion-Dollar U.S. Disasters in 2020. NOAA has details: “It was an extraordinary year for weather and climate events in the U.S.: The nation endured an unprecedented 22 billion-dollar disasters in 2020. A record number of named tropical storms formed in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall. The nation also had its most active wildfire year on record due to very dry conditions in the West and unusually warm temperatures that gripped much of the country...”

In this Monday, June 20, 2016 file photo, smoke from wildfires burning in Angeles National Forest fills the sky behind the Los Angeles skyline. Los Angeles County has the highest ranking in the National Risk Index.
AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

You Might Be Surprised About the Riskiest Places to Live in the US. I’m feeling even better about living in Minnesota these days. A post at AP and Voice of America caught my eye: “…Out of over 3,000 counties in the U.S., Los Angeles County in southern California is the riskiest place to live. That is home to the city of Los Angeles. The counties in the U.S. that are home to other large U.S. cities are risky, too. New York County, home to New York City, and Miami-Dade County in Florida have large populations, lots of buildings and homes and are close to water. Cities that are close to water are generally considered risky due to flooding. Other U.S. cities that have a high risk index are Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; and St. Louis, Missouri…”

National Risk Index

FEMA’s National Risk Index. For more information on overall risk levels for specific counties click here. FEMA has an excerpt: “…The Index leverages best available source data to provide a holistic view of community-level risk nationwide by combining multiple hazards with socioeconomic and built environment factors. It calculates a baseline relative risk measurement for each United States county and census tract for 18 natural hazards, based on Expected Annual Loss, Social Vulnerability, and Community Resilience…”


Moderate Risk for Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. Why? Value of properties and infrastructure in the path of potential floods and tornadoes.

NOAA, Twitter

2020 Tied for Hottest Year on Record. Here’s a summary at CNN.com: “Global average temperatures last year were tied for the hottest on record, capping what was also the planet’s hottest decade ever recorded, according to new data analysis released Friday. The last six years are now the hottest six on record, with 2020 on par with 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded. The new analysis comes from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, one of several datasets which track global temperatures and climate change impacts. Last year’s temperatures were 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.08 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 1981 to 2010 average, and 1.25 degrees Celsius (2.25 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average…”

Climate Stories…

JPSS Satellite

Inside the CIA, She Became a Spy for Planet Earth. Talk about an accidental discovery of monumental importance. Here’s an excerpt of a fascinating story at The New York Times (paywall): “…The first reconnaissance satellite, known as Corona, was launched in 1960. Federal experts have put the overall cost of its hundreds of successors at more than $50 billion. An accident of fate let the fleet assess a top environmental concern — the extent to which vast expanses of Arctic and Antarctic ice were retreating. Many spy satellites orbit on north-south paths that pass close to the poles so that, as the planet turns, the vast majority of Earth’s surface passes beneath their sensors over the course of 24 hours. Thus, their many paths converge near the poles…”


Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Agriculture Must Be Part of Climate Change Negotiations, Says Farm Bureau. Here’s the intro to a post at Food and Environmental Reporting Network: “Although blamed for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture has a “great track record” through land stewardship and biofuels in mitigating climate change, says Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, in looking ahead to the Biden administration. “We must make sure we are at the table for discussions around climate change.” Speaking during the opening session of the AFBF annual convention, held online this year, Duvall said, “Farmers have a great story to tell when it comes to protecting our environment,” noting that roughly 140 million acres, or 219,000 square miles, of farmland are enrolled in federal soil and water conservation programs and biofuels “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 71 million tons per year…”

This GOES-16 satellite image taken Oct. 9, 2020, shows Hurricane Delta in the Gulf of Mexico.

Controversial NOAA Climate Officials Release Papers Making Dubious Claims. I’m shocked. Here’s an excerpt from an explainer at Capital Weather Gang: “…The papers, which were published on non-government websites, bear the imprint of the Executive Office of the President and state they were copyrighted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). “These papers were not created at the direction of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy nor were they cleared or approved by OSTP leadership,” OSTP spokesperson Kristina Baum said in an email. The papers make controversial and disputed claims about climate science, including that human-caused global warming “involves a large measure of faith” and that computer models are “too small and slow” to produce meaningful climate simulations...”

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