No question about it: this has been a wild weather year so far in the United States, with record rains, droughts, wildfires and tornadoes. But a new study indicates that even routine weather events like rainstorms and cooler-than-normal days could pack a huge annual economic wallop.
Weather’s effect on all sectors of the U.S. economy may total $485 billion a year, as much as 3.4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, according to research published in the current Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. It is the first study to apply qualitative economic analysis to estimate the U.S. economy’s weather sensitivity.
Mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with routine variations taking a toll of 14 percent on mining each year — possibly because of changing demands for oil, gas and coal — and farming feeling a 12 percent impact, conceivably because temperature and precipitation affect many crops, the study said.
Other weather-sensitive U.S. sectors include manufacturing (8 percent); finance, insurance and retail (8 percent), and utilities (7 percent). By contrast, wholesale and retail trade had a weather sensitivity of 2 percent, and the service sector felt a 3 percent impact from routine weather variations. The impacts stretch across every U.S. state, researchers found.
“It’s clear that our economy isn’t weatherproof,” said the study’s lead author, Jeffrey Lazo, an economist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.