'Less fortunate in US hit hardest by extreme weather'

US droughts, floods and heat waves likely fueled by climate change in the last two years hit the people who can afford it the least - the poor and middle class, a report published on Friday said.

In affected areas of U.S. states hit by five or more extreme weather events in the last two years, the median annual household income was a bit over $48,000, or 7 percent below the national median, according to the report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the White House.

Floods hit lower-income households particularly hard. Families in areas hit by the largest floods this year and last, many near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, earned an average of 14 percent less than the U.S. median, said the report called Heavy Weather: How Climate Destruction Harms Middle and Lower Income Americans.

These findings reflect a cruel phenomenon sometimes called 'the climate gap' - the concept that climate change has a disproportionate and unequal impact on society's less fortunate, said the report, which tapped U.S. data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Census and other agencies.

Droughts and heat waves hit households that earned an average of $49,300, about 5 percent less than the U.S. median annual income, sometimes hurting the people least able to afford air conditioners or the electricity to run them, it said.

Scientists say it is difficult if not impossible to pin individual storms entirely on climate change. But conditions caused by global warming, including higher ocean temperatures and rising seas, can make storms stronger and floods worse.

Even with the Northeast still cleaning up after Superstorm Sandy that killed at least 120 people, damaged billions of dollars worth of property, and brought new focus on climate change, wide-ranging action by Congress to tackle global warming will be an uphill battle.

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