Climate Change Left a Devastating Wake in Florida and Across the U.S. in 2020
Washington, D.C. — Extreme weather and record-breaking storms, driven by climate change, were unrelenting during 2020, causing billions in damages, burning millions of acres, and killing hundreds, according to a compilation released today by Climate Power.
That devastation was felt throughout Florida, as the state faced record rainfall and flooding, including Tropical Storm Eta’s, which overwhelmed sewers and drainage canals in Southwest Florida, pouring at times three feet of water into public streets.
The data draws a painful picture of the harm of 2020. This year, Florida saw 2 Tropical cyclones and 4 severe storms that caused a total of approximately $15 billion in damages, leaving hundreds of families, especially in the Panhandle, without power. The state also experienced its warmest year on record, and South Florida saw 86 inches of rain, surpassing the state’s yearly record by more than 20 inches. This increased rainfall led to an increase in mosquito-borne illnesses like Dengue Fever and the West Nile virus.
According to a statistical analysis done by NCEI scientists, 2020 is very likely to rank among the three-warmest years on record. September 2020 was the hottest September on the globe in 141 years of record keeping. The same is true for November. April and May 2020 both tied previous temperature records.
“Florida’s record-breaking flooding, a supercharged hurricane season, and heatwaves are a stark warning of what will happen if we don’t act boldly to address the climate crisis. The relentless storms, climate fires, and heat impacted nearly every person living in Florida, with the disproportionate harm forced on frontline communities that have been exposed to legacy pollution and racist climate policies for decades,” said Daniela Campos, a spokesperson for Climate Power 2020. “If we do not act, the heat, fires, and storms of 2020 will be our country’s new normal — the consequences of which will be catastrophic.”
Below is a snapshot of the climate crisis and its toll on Florida’s communities and across the country this year. You can see a full month-by-month list of climate events from 2020 HERE.
- Record-Breaking Flooding – Florida saw its warmest year on record and experienced the effects of an extended rainy season and supercharged storms. This year, South Florida underwent approximately 86 inches of rain, 24 more inches than usual. Heavy rainfall caused record-breaking flooding, especially during Tropical Storm Eta.
- Florida’s mosquito-borne diseases were on the rise in 2020- Longer rainy seasons and warm temperatures caused by climate change were responsible for an increase in locally transmitted mosquito-borne illnesses. By mid-October, the state reported 59 cases of West Nile virus in Florida, compared with only two cases in all of 2019.
- Hottest spring on record – In April, Miami hit its earliest-recorded heatwave with temperatures reaching more than 90 degrees, and Orlando broke a nearly century-old record high, reaching 97 degrees.
- Blue-green algae bloom – In 2020, Lake Okeechobee saw toxic algae blooms earlier than expected due to high temperatures in the region.
- Record-Breaking Atlantic Tropical Storm Season – This year’s Atlantic Hurricane season smashed forecasts and went on to become the busiest hurricane season on record with 30 named storms, including a record 12 hurricanes making landfall in the United States.
- Five Storms At Once – For the first time since 1971, five named storms churned in the Atlantic Basin at one time. Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, and Vicky were each visible in the Atlantic Ocean on September 14th.
- Devastating Western Wildfires – California experienced its worst wildfire season on record. Nationwide, 9.5 million acres burned and 2020 still has the potential to become the more catastrophic fire season in our nation’s history.
- Sci-Fi Red Skies – This year’s wildfires exposed 8 million people to hazardous pollution levels. Air pollution was so thick in places it caused the skies to turn a nightmarish reddish-orange hue inspiring a viral video that paired drone footage of the San Francisco skyline to music from the movie Blade Runner 2049.
- Arctic On Fire – Wildfires blazed along the Arctic Circle, emitting a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide as carbon-dense peatlands burned in Siberia. On June 20, a Russian town north of the Arctic Circle reached a record high of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, setting a new record for a region not exactly famous for heatwaves.
- Hottest Summer On Record – Summer 2020 was the Northern Hemisphere’s hottest summer on record.