The U.S. suffered $91 billion in losses due to extreme weather last year.
The last five years were collectively the world’s warmest on record, two of the largest U.S. science agencies announced on Wednesday.
With its fourth place showing, 2018 now ranks behind 2016, 2017, and 2015 and ahead of 2014 on the list of the warmest years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a joint presentation.
“The key message is that the planet is warming,’’ said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “The long-term trends are extremely robust.”
That warming is driven by the amount of greenhouse gases humans have introduced into the atmosphere, particularly in the last 100 years, Schmidt said.
In both data sets, the overall trend of global temperatures is rising. However, individual years do see fluctuations due to phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina in the equatorial Pacific, said Deke Arndt, a scientist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina.
“It is like riding up an escalator over time and jumping up and down as you are riding on that escalator,’’ Arndt said during a call with reporters.
Global temperatures averaged 1.49 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1951-1980 average according to NASA data, while NOAA showed 1.42F above the 1901-2000 average. While the two agencies use different baseline averages, the record of global temperatures goes back to 1880.
In addition to the temperature records, the U.S. suffered $91 billion in direct losses from extreme weather events in 2018, the fourth most since 1980, Ardnt said. Hurricanes Florence and Michael and wildfires in the West accounted for $73 billion of that loss.