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12/28/2012 10:47 am ET | Updated Dec 28, 2012

Worst Natural Disasters Of 2012 (PHOTOS)

2012 saw many natural disasters strike across the globe, killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property and infrastructural damage. From hurricanes and earthquakes to droughts, heat waves and wildfires, events were both widespread and severe.

Hurricane Sandy was one of the most prominent disasters of the year in the U.S., killing at least 125 people and inflicting at least $62 billion in damage, according to the Associated Press. The storm also killed 71 people in the Caribbean.

Much of the U.S. was also plagued by prolonged extreme weather. The country saw a severe summer heat wave and a drought which may prove more costly than Sandy. Researchers note that the 2012 drought is the worst since 1988 and is on par with those of the 1950s. The drought came amid a year which, by mid-December, had an over 99 percent chance of being the warmest ever recorded for the U.S.

In the American West, the 2012 wildfire season had already burned 30 percent more area than in an average year by September, "with nearly two months still to go in the fire season," according to Climate Central. They note, "In the past 40 years, rising spring and summer temperatures, along with shrinking winter snowpack, have increased the risk of wildfires in most parts of the West."

Recent computer modeling and satellite observations suggest the area burned by wildfires in the U.S. will likely double by 2050.

Researchers and officials noted that many of the extreme weather events which hit the U.S. this year were predicted in previous years by climate scientists. U.S. National Weather Service acting director Laura Furgione said, according to AP, "The normal has changed, I guess. The normal is extreme."

Around the world, major earthquakes struck in Italy, the Philippines, Iran, and Afghanistan. The Philippines were also slammed by Typhoon Bopha, which claimed over 1,000 lives and left many more homeless.

NOTE: The list of disasters in the gallery below is focused primarily on the U.S, but also features some of the most prominent natural disasters from across the world.

Worst Natural Disasters Of 2012

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