Frequency of extreme weather may escalate in 2012: Scientists

From floods that crippled countries, to mega cyclones, huge blizzards, killer tornadoes to famine-inducing droughts, 2011 has been another record-breaker for bad weather.

While it is too early to predict what 2012 will be like, insurers and weather prediction agencies point to a clear trend: the world's weather is becoming more extreme and more costly.

Following are details of major weather disasters for 2011 and some early forecasts for 2012.

2011 overview

Global reinsurer Munich Re says natural catastrophe losses for the first nine months of 2011 totaled US$310 billion (S$402 billion), a record, with 80 per cent of all economic losses occurring in the Asia-Pacific region. Since 1980, weather-related disasters globally have more than tripled.

The United States set a record with 12 separate billion-dollar weather disasters in 2011, with an aggregate damage total of approximately US$52 billion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this month.

The UN's World Meteorological Organization said global temperatures in 2011 are currently the 10th highest on record, higher than any previous year with a La Nina event, which has a relative cooling influence.

The 13 warmest years have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997. The extent of Arctic sea ice in 2011 was the second lowest on record, and its volume was the lowest.

Scientists say a warming atmosphere and more moisture in the air are providing fuel for weather systems, leading to more extremes. Rising levels of greenhouse gases from industry, transport and deforestation are providing that extra heat.

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