An Update on Recent Natural Disasters and the Climate Crisis

Photo courtesy of Li-An Lim on

Serena Carpino, News Editor

Over the past several months, natural disasters have occurred across the country, ravaging many properties and displacing numerous people. These extreme weather events have raised concerns about the continued effects of climate change and many wonder if they will soon become common.

In September 2022, Hurricane Ian landed in Florida, killing 148 people and uprooting many more. It also caused between $50 to $65 billion dollars in insured damages, second only to Hurricane Katrina in this respect. 

The Category 4 storm was one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the United States, and climate experts warn that rising temperatures greatly contributed to the devastation. Warmer ocean temperatures provided the hurricane with more energy, thus allowing it to produce more winds and create higher waves, and ultimately cause widespread power outages as well. 

Hurricane Ian was not the last extreme weather event in the past year. Recent snowfall in California has broken decade-long records, as people across the state experienced their snowiest winter since 1983. In the Sierra Nevadas, snowfall is 237 percent higher than normal (Slate), receiving over 56 feet of snow (KCRA). Other areas, including Tahoe, have received over 60 feet of snow, and the ski season will officially run past the Fourth of July (Slate).

Although the snow will help combat a statewide drought this summer, some worry that warmer temperatures will cause flooding that many Californians are unprepared for. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about 6.4 million people are at risk for “moderate flooding,” particularly those in central California (Reuters). Because of the continual drought over the past several years, California’s infrastructure has been weakened and its drainage systems overwhelmed. 

The extreme weather conditions in California have already killed at least 17 people, and this number is expected to increase as temperatures rise. After state officials confirmed the death toll, Governor Gavin Newsom said that it is “likely to grow” (The Guardian). 

However, California is not the only state that has suffered casualties from natural disasters. Recent tornadoes in the South and Midwest have killed at least 32 people and caused widespread damage in many areas (CNN). In particular, Pulaski County, Arkansas experienced most of the damage, with over 50 hospitalizations in the area. Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has since declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. 

Natural disasters such as these are becoming more frequent and costly each year. In 2022, NOAA reported that extreme weather events cost the United States about $165 billion dollars in losses, an increase of about $10 billion dollars from the previous year (Statista). 

These disasters also reflect the growing climate crisis, as rising temperatures correlate to deadlier storms, drier rivers, and a greater number of displaced people. The Census Bureau reported that about 1.4 percent of, or around 3 million, adult Americans were uprooted by natural disasters (NBC). 

“These numbers are very distressing,” said Michael Gerrard, the director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “These numbers are what one would expect to find in a developing country. It’s appalling to see them in the United States. … They’re only going to get worse in the years to come because climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent and more severe” (NBC).