If routine weather ravages U.S. economy, what about climate change?

Most people well know the effects of weather. During a thunderstorm, you curl up in bed rather than shop. Flights get cancelled when a snowstorm hits. A long dry spell ruins a summer’s cucumber crop.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) estimates that routine weather events cost the U.S. economy $485 billion a year, as much as 3.5 percent of the country’s GDP.  In a study that will be published in this month’s issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society the scientists used economic modeling techniques to analyze the sensitivity of the U.S. economy to temperature and precipitation. With 70 years of weather records across the U.S. they were able to establish weather variability patterns and compare them to economic indicators for various sectors of the economy.

The results show that some industries are particularly hard hit when the weather deviates from the norm. Variations in weather takes away about 14 percent of the mining industry’s bottom line each year as a result of a change in fuel costs. Agriculture comes in a close second at a 12 percent toll to crops.

“It’s clear that our economy isn’t weatherproof,” says NCAR scientist Jeffrey Lazo, in a press release from NCAR. “Even routine changes in the weather can add up to substantial impacts on the U.S. economy.”

What they don’t yet know is the cost of extreme weather events, the likes of which are becoming more common, as is painfully evident in this year’s slew of flooding, tornadoes, and record rainfall. If routine deviations in the norm take such a toll, what does the future hold for the weather extremes anticipated from climate change?