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Breaking down the United States climate in 2020

5th hottest year on record and largest number of billion-dollar disasters.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — This past weekend the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released that out of a 126-year period of records, 2020 was the 5th hottest to date.

Leaving the top five warmest years to have all occurred since 2012.

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE

Despite the short-lived dip in emissions due to the pandemic, CO2 levels have still managed to reach an all-time high in May of 2020. Reaching a record-breaking 417 ppm of CO2. 

Higher levels of CO2 and warmer temperatures do not just mean hotter days. It also means more extreme weather. That includes more frequent and intense hurricanes, larger and more deadly wildfires, and a shift in seasonal patterns. 

The reason this happens is that a warmer atmosphere can hold more water. More water/moisture in the atmosphere is linked to a change in rainfall patterns. Causing there to be more extreme rainfall events. That means more heavy rainfall events in short periods of time. This leads to increased flash flooding and more intense thunderstorms.

Warmer temperatures also contribute to increased evaporation rates from the soil. This leads to larger portions of the country experiencing severe drought. Something that was extremely evident in the western United States, where record-breaking wildfires occurred for much of 2020.  

$95 billion. That is how much damage was done due to 22 natural disasters that cost over a billion dollars each.  Breaking the record of 16 set in 2011 and 2017.  

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There is near consensus amongst climatologists and scientists alike that human enhanced climate change is the reason 2020 was able to soar past any other year when it comes to billion-dollar weather/climate-induced natural disasters. 

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE

Of course, it's not too late! By living a greener and more sustainable life we can work to bend this curve and help the change of the climate occur at its natural rate. 

Here are a few ways that you can live more eco friendly in 2021: 

  • Recycle 
  • Decrease single-use plastic items
  • Minimize energy consumption 
  • Reduce unnecessary water usage 
  • Resell or donate items and clothing 
  • Use more environmentally friendly modes of transportation 
  • Limit purchasing "fast fashion" items 
  • Shop local to reduce your carbon footprint 
  • Grow your own produce  

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