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Publication Abstract

Impacts of Recent Climate Anomalies: Losers and Winners. Changnon, Stanley A., Kenneth E. Kunkel, David Changnon, 2007  Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,  ISWS DCS 2007-01    Full Text Available

This document focuses on the impacts from a wide variety of climate anomalies in the continental United States during 1985-2005, and for which there are good measurements of resulting societal, environmental, and economic impacts. Climate anomalies produce sizable losses, but some also benefit society and the environment in ways that often go unrecognized but persist for years. The last 20 years (1985-2005) are the first era with quality, in-depth studies of these impacts, particularly economic ones. Delineation of impacts from recent anomalies has applications in helping to assess impacts that future changes in climate could create. Most major businesses in the nation are highly climate sensitive, including agriculture, transportation, power generation, construction, and retail. This document should be useful and benefit the many sectors affected by climate anomalies, and also those who must make decisions relating to such conditions. The ten major climate anomalies during the 1985-2005 period were:

  • 1985-1986 Wet Period (western and central United States)
  • 1988 Drought (West, Rockies, Great Plains, Midwest, and East)
  • 1990 Record Wet and Warm Year (southern and central United States)
  • 1993 Floods (central United States)
  • 1993-1994 Cold and Snowy Winter (High Plains, Midwest, and East)
  • Summer 1995 Heat Wave (Great Plains, Midwest, and East)
  • 1997-1998 El Nino (West, South, and Midwest)
  • 1999-2000 Droughts and Heat Waves (Midwest, High Plains, South, and Rockies)
  • 2001-2002 Warm Winter (northern United States)
  • 2004 Cool, Wet, and Sunny Growing Season (High Plains, South, and Midwest)

Assessment of various impacts associated with the ten climate anomalies revealed several nonclimatic factors, as well as climate conditions, were responsible for the sizable economic losses from these recent climate extremes. One influential nonclimatic factor was related to the insurance industry and its poor handling of weather/climate losses in recent years. Several societal factors also played a significant role in recent sizable climate-caused losses. Population growth and often growing wealth have increased societyís vulnerability to climate anomalies. Demographic changes have shifted the nationís population density to more weather-vulnerable locations. Flood and storm assessments further have revealed growing problems of an aging infrastructure across the nation.

The economic impacts of the ten climate anomalies assessed herein totaled $258.7 billion in losses and $125.0 billion in gains (2006 dollars). Total gains represented 33 percent of the total economic impacts. Gain values exceeded loss values in four of the ten anomalies (1990, 1997-1998, 2001-2002, and 2004). The 1988 drought had the largest loss, $86.5 billion, and the 2004 growing season had the greatest gain, $26.6 billion. The anomalies caused 7,955 deaths, and most resulted from heat waves in 1988, 1995, 1999, and 2000. Assuming the economic measures presented are reasonably correct, the economic impacts of the anomalies, plus findings from other climate impact studies, are useful inputs for estimating the impacts that a future climate change due to global warming may produce.

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