According to a recent report, storms are causing damage to portions of the United States at an unprecedented historical rate. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey cost the United States $125 billion. It’s the second most costly storm in US history. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina claimed the title of the most expensive storm after it caused $161 billion in damage.
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that storms that cause significant damage are becoming more common than storms that do not. "We estimate that there has been a tripling in the rate of the most damaging storms over the last century," Aslak Grinsted, lead researcher, told Business Insider
Why Are Storms Getting Worse?
Research links the high rate of powerful storms to higher temperatures. As temperatures rise, so does the likelihood of significant storms. Another factor that makes storms more damages is the increase in property values along the coast and inland. As homes are worth more money, frequent powerful storms are destroying them, racking up their damages tally.
To determine if storms are more damaging or if property values are increasing, researchers had to develop an accurate model to measure damage across time. So, the compared storms by the amount of land area they impacted.
"We cannot directly compare the damage from the 1926 Great Miami hurricane with that from Hurricane Irma in 2017 without considering the increased amount of valuable property exposed," the report says.
The researchers discovered that 240 tropical storms and hurricanes made landfall in the United States between 1900 and 2008. After examining how much land these storms impacted, the report found that damaging hurricanes and tropical storms have increased by 330 percent in the last century. Unfortunately, researchers also determined that more destructive storms are on our horizon. As global temperatures rise, so will the frequency of significant storms.
"In the short term, we cannot hope to combat storms. So, the risk has to be reduced in other ways: adapting, and reducing exposure," Grinsted said. "It is also important to keep improving forecasting."