The cost of weatherWeather variations cost U.S. $485 billion a year

Published 23 June 2011

New research finds that routine weather events such as rain and cooler-than-average days can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billion in the United States; the study found that finance, manufacturing, agriculture, and every other sector of the economy is sensitive to changes in the weather, and that the impact of routine weather variations on the economy is as much as 3.4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product

Rain approaches. And the cost will be... // Source: code.org.cn

New research indicates that routine weather events such as rain and cooler-than-average days can add up to an annual economic impact of as much as $485 billion in the United States.

The study, led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found that finance, manufacturing, agriculture, and every other sector of the economy is sensitive to changes in the weather. The impacts can be felt in every state. “It’s clear that our economy isn’t weatherproof,” says NCAR scientist Jeffrey Lazo, the lead author. “Even routine changes in the weather can add up to substantial impacts on the U.S. economy.”

A University Corporation for Atmospheric research (UCAR) release reports that this is the first study to apply quantitative economic analysis to estimate the weather sensitivity of the entire U.S. economy. The research could help policymakers determine whether it is worthwhile to invest in enhanced forecasts and other strategies that could better protect economic activity from weather impacts.

The authors caution that the study should be viewed as an initial estimate, which they plan to refine in subsequent research. Lazo and his colleagues did not calculate additional costs associated with extreme weather events, such as this year’s tornado outbreaks, since data on extreme events were not available for the time period covered by their economic model. Nor did they evaluate the possible impacts of climate change, which is expected to lead to more flooding, heat waves, and other costly weather events.

Still, the release notes, the study concludes that the influence of routine weather variations on the economy is as much as 3.4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

Previous studies looked at weather influences on particular economic sectors or produced subjective estimates of overall weather impacts. In contrast, Lazo and his colleagues combined historical economic data with economic modeling techniques to produce a detailed analysis of the U.S. economy’s sensitivity to temperature and precipitation.

The results indicate that the mining and agriculture sectors are particularly sensitive. Routine variations in weather may take a toll on the mining economy of 14 percent each year, perhaps because of changing demand for oil, gas, and coal. Agriculture ranked second at 12 percent, conceivably because of the many crops that are affected by temperature and precipitation.

Other sensitive sectors include manufacturing (8 percent); finance, insurance, and retail (8 percent); and utilities (7 percent). In contrast, wholesale trade (2 percent); retail trade (2 percent); and services (3 percent) were found to be least sensitive.

The study also concluded that the economy of every state is sensitive to the weather. Although the state-level findings were more subject to error than national findings, the study indicated that New York was most sensitive (a 13.5 percent impact on the gross state product ) and Tennessee was least sensitive (2.5 percent).

The United States as a whole is less sensitive than individual states because economic production can shift from one region to another, according to the study.

The researchers produced the estimated range of $485 billion in potential economic impacts by applying their weather sensitivity findings of 3.4 percent to the 2008 U.S. gross domestic product of $14.4 trillion. As the economy grows, costs of weather variability can be expected to increase accordingly.

— Read more in Jeffrey K. Lazo et al., “U.S. Economic Sensitivity to Weather Variability,” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (forthcoming)

view counter
view counter