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May-June 2018

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From the Editor

2017 was, by most meteorological measures, a year for the record books. In the United States and nearby locales, the terrible triumvirate of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria dominated headlines in the most costly year of extreme weather events in history. The devastation and catastrophic costs incurred as a result of these hurricanes were boosted by a destructive winter tornado season and terrible flooding followed by raging wildfires in California. There were 16 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2017, half of which were severe storm outbreaks. The dollar total for all weather disasters for the year exceeded $300 billion. For severe thunderstorms and tornadoes alone, this was the second most expensive year on record, driven largely by hail damage.

And this was just in the United States. Monsoon rains in August caused extensive flooding in Bangladesh and parts of India and Nepal, taking more than 1,200 lives and affecting more than 39 million people. Similarly, flooding in Sierra Leone, South America and China claimed hundreds of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Meanwhile, heat was a major factor across the globe, with one heat wave in India in May blamed for 2,500 deaths, making it one of the two deadliest heat waves in modern times. Historic heat waves also hit Europe, the Mideast, Japan, and Australia in 2017, shattering monthly and all-time records and causing thousands of fatalities.

No doubt 2017 will go down in history as one of the more devastating years, weatherwise, and we have chronicled the many extreme weather events in our Almanac issue, as we do each year at this time. And while every year we have no shortage of extreme weather events to examine, it seems that this year's Almanac is filled with superlatives I have not seen in the more than 10 years I have served as Managing Editor of Weatherwise. “Costliest,” “deadliest,” “most devastating,” “worst,” “record-breaking,” “unprecedented”; these are the words that surfaced again and again in the articles submitted by our authors this year. As Douglas LeComte, longtime author of our United States and international weather highlights articles, notes, “Weather journalists like to throw around words like ‘epic’ or ‘historic’ but in this case, it is not hype.” There is just no other way to describe the weather events of 2017.

Only time will tell if 2017 will go down as a watershed moment in meteorological and global history, but I can't help but think it will. Or at least it should, if we are to learn anything from the events we have witnessed this past year.

Correction

In Figure 6 on page 25 of the March/April issue of Weatherwise, the caption indicates that the surface analysis is for Hurricane Harvey. The caption should have indicated that the image was of Hurricane Irma. Weatherwise regrets the error.

 

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