New Mapping Tool Reveals Thousands of Record-Breaking Extreme Weather Events in 2011

Interactive Online Map Shows Potential Long-Term Climate Impact in Every State; Prompts Calls for Action

NEW YORK (December 8, 2011) – In 2011, there were at least 2,941 monthly weather records broken in communities throughout the US., as detailed in a new interactive extreme weather mapping tool and year-end review released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The powerful web-based tool allows Americans to draw the connections between climate change and extreme weather in the cities and towns in which they live.

“From heat waves to floods to fires, 2011 was a year of extreme weather for communities throughout the United States. This alarming, yet illuminating data is indicative of what we can expect as climate change continues,” said Kim Knowlton, NRDC Senior Scientist who spearheaded the development of the web-based tool. “Actions can be taken today to limit the worst effects of climate change. Our leaders need to make climate change preparedness a priority, if these events will be occurring more frequently and with more intensity.”

The national survey provides a unique aggregation of state-by-state extreme weather, detailing a range of extreme weather events including record-breaking temperatures, rainfall and snowfall in each state. The survey found at least 1,302 heat-related records, 1,090 rainfall records and 549 snowfall records were broken in counties across the nation. Especially hard-hit regions include the Midwest and Northeast, which endured heavy flooding and the greater Texas region, which endured an extended period of wildfires, extreme heat and drought. 

The damage caused by the unparalleled weather extremes of 2011 has cost an estimated $53 billion.  Hurricane Irene and Midwest and Mississippi River flooding this summer amounted to over $20 billion in costs and nearly 60 deaths. Southwestern droughts, heat waves and wildfires took a toll on ranchers and food producers, who experienced over $10 billion total direct losses to agriculture, cattle and structures, this year alone.

Climate change increases the risk of record-breaking extreme weather events that threaten communities across the country, causing property damage, business costs and impacts to human health.  A newly-released summary of a Special Report on Extreme Events from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that the effects of climate change will intensify extreme heat, heavy precipitation, and maximum wind speeds of tropical storms. And a first-of-its-kind study published in the journal Health Affairs recently highlighted the health costs associated with extreme events, showing that just six climate-related events in recent years caused $14 billion in health care costs.

The extreme events weather map is part of a larger NRDC mapping tool designed to help people glean insights about the types of record-breaking extreme weather events most likely to occur in their communities. It also provides decision-makers with information to develop localized climate-health preparedness plans that effectively reduce risks of record-breaking damage and health costs for vulnerable areas.  

For more information about this year’s record-breaking extreme weather events, see: