Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

The surprising reasons thunderstorms are more destructive than ever

A significant influence on the rising storm damage trend has little to do with the weather.

It will cost Houston billions of dollars to recover from deadly storms that whipped hurricane-force winds through downtown buildings last week, experts estimate. But it no longer takes such an exceptional storm to destroy so much: The number of billion-dollar thunderstorms in the United States is rising dramatically, data show.

Decades ago, hurricanes, floods and winter storms more frequently landed on an annual National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration list of billion-dollar weather disasters. But now, thunderstorms - some of them spawning tornadoes - are driving a surge in weather-related property damage and insurance payouts across the United States.

That is in part because the ingredients needed to produce intense, damaging storms - including energy, instability and moisture in the atmosphere - are becoming more abundant as the planet warms, meteorologists said. Such conditions are in place more often as human emissions of greenhouse gases trap heat around the planet like a blanket.


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