Blizzards, Droughts, Floods and Fires: Wild Weather Tops 2011 Highlight Reel

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Extreme weather, Learn

As 2011 comes to a close, no year-in-review retrospective would be complete without noting the many wild and memorable weather events of the past 12 months, costly both in dollars and more than 1,000 lives, according to the National Weather Service. (And be sure to check out our full roundup of climate-related extreme-weather coverage over at

From the Groundhog Day blizzard and Northeast school and barn roofs collapsing under the weight of two feet of snow, to the flooded Mississippi River, Texas droughts and wildfires, Hurricane Irene sweeping up the East Coast and a freak October Nor’easter, there was barely a dull moment in the U.S.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that 2011 is “a year for the record books,” with 12 weather and climate disasters totaling more than $1 billion each. You can explore more statistics about each of these events, from tornado outbreaks to heatwaves, on their web site. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a state-by-state list of federal disaster declarations, ranging from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee in Eastern states to wildfires in Arizona and Texas.

In an interview today with CBS News The Early Show in the video above, The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist M. Sanjayan, said a La Nina weather pattern was one contributor, but there is also the ”underlying factor of climate change that makes everything warm and supercharges the atmosphere.” As global temperatures warm and climate – defined as long-term average weather patterns – continues to change, extreme weather events are likely to become more common, scientists say. (You can follow Sanjayan’s globe-trotting adventures on Twitter @msanjayan.)

The Weather Channel has been featuring a television special “2011 By the Billions,” tracking the year’s  numerous disasters with high price tags. And the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog recounts month by month some of the significant weather events of 2011, which came on the heels of record heat and snow for the nation’s capital in 2010.

What lies ahead for 2012? Only time will tell, but the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a wet, wild winter with lots of stormy weather.

Lisa Hayden is a blogger for The Nature Conservancy

Photo by: Flickr user ryanvanetten (Downed limbs and power lines in West Orange, N.J., during the October 2011 Nor’easter).

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