Drought conditions over South America on 26 March 2018, as measured using the 3-month Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). Graphic: Latin American Flood and Drought Monitor / Princeton.edu

Dr. Jeff Masters
30 March 2018

(Weather Underground) – A severe lack of rainfall during over southern South America during the summer of 2017 - 2018 has led to the worst drought in decades over portions of Argentina and Uruguay. According to insurance broker Aon Benfield, total losses are near $3.9 billion, making the drought the most expensive weather-related disaster on the planet so far in 2018--and the most expensive disaster in the history of both Argentina and Uruguay.

Hardest-hit was Argentina, where the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange predicted that the drought would likely cause an economic loss of $3.4 billion. Argentina’s 2018 soybean harvest is expected to be near the record-low harvest of the drought year of 2009; both severe droughts occurred during weak La Niña events. According to EM-DAT, the international disaster database, the $3.4 billion cost of this year’s drought exceeds a $3 billion flood (2018 dollars) from October 1985 as Argentina’s most expensive disaster on record.

The lack of summer rainfall this year in Uruguay has led to the worst drought conditions in that nation since 2008/09. Local industry officials anticipated economic losses exceeding $500 million, which would rank as that nation’s most expensive disaster in history. The previous record was the $380 million cost of a drought in 1999. […]

My 2016 post, Food System Shock: Climate Change's Greatest Threat to Civilization, argued that the greatest threat of climate change to civilization over the next 40 years is likely to be climate change-amplified extreme droughts and floods hitting multiple major global grain-producing "breadbaskets" simultaneously. I predicted that an extreme weather year capable of causing a significant disruption of the global economy, intense political turmoil, war and the threat of mass famine was increasing in probability, becoming a 1-in-50-year event 40 years from now--a 2% chance of happening in a given year--due to the increasingly extreme nature of the jet stream, when combined with the ongoing increase in global temperatures, drought intensity, and heavy precipitation events. [more]

Most Expensive Weather Disaster of 2018: a $3.9 Billion Drought in Argentina and Uruguay

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