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2016 was the second warmest year on record for the continental United States, with extreme weather disasters causing 138 deaths and at least $46 billion in damage across the nation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
The United States experienced 15 weather and climate disasters in 2016 that cost more than $1 billion in losses, costing the nation a staggering $46 billion in total and claiming 138 lives, NOAA announced Monday. The disasters included a hurricane, historic flooding, droughts, wildfires and tornadoes.
The deadliest disasters in 2016 were Hurricane Matthew in October, which killed 49 people; and a powerful storm system in June caused “destructive flooding” in West Virginia and “numerous tornadoes” across several Ohio Valley states, resulting in the deaths of 23 people, according to NOAA.
“We’re definitely seeing a pronounced uptick in extreme rain events, and there’s just no question about the fact that it is linked to warming,” Carl Parker, a storm specialist at the Weather Channel, told NBC News. “Our expectation with these sort of devastating flood events is they’re likely going to continue to increase.”
Last year was the second highest number of "billion-dollar" disasters the U.S. experienced, NOAA said. The highest was 16 in the year 2011.
“I do think that in general we’re going to be in for a pretty wild ride, and it’s probably going to cost us more and more each year,” Parker said.
The average temperature for the lower 48 states in 2016 was 54.9 degrees Fahrenheit, nearly 3 degrees above average, according to the report. The only year warmer in 122 years of record keeping so far for the contiguous United States was 2012, where the annual average temperature was 55.3 degrees.
Fenimore said Hawaii was excluded from the report because the agency does not currently have temperature and precipitation data sets for the state, and Alaska was excluded because NOAA only has 92 years of records for the state. However, Alaska had its warmest year on record, dating back to 1925, NOAA said.
Every state in the contiguous U.S. had an average temperature “that was among the warmest seven of their historical records,” according to the agency.
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"The breadth of the coverage of all the states that were much above average through the year was just amazing," Chris Fenimore, a physical scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, told NBC News.
Fenimore said as temperatures increased worldwide, and as greenhouse gasses were pumped into the air, the world could expect higher precipitation totals and an increase in disasters including inland flooding.
Increased temperatures over time could affect everything from people's health, natural disasters, business and infrastructure, he said.
"It has an astounding effect on people’s lives," he said.
NOAA said in its national overview for 2016 that “No other year had as many states breaking or close to breaking their warmest annual average temperature."
This was the 20th consecutive year the annual average temperature in the U.S. was above the 20th century average temperature, NOAA said.
Scientists have predicted that globally 2016 would be the hottest year on record, after two previous record-setting years in 2014 and 2015.
Fenimore said data from 2016 through November confirmed the globe had experienced "its warmest such period on record." Data for the month of December was expected to be released later this month.
"We expect it to be the warmest year on record," he said.