Energy & Environment

Record broken for number of billion-dollar US weather and climate disasters in 2020

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U.S. weather and climate disasters hit an all-time high in 2020 with 22 separate catastrophes that cost more than $1 billion each. 

The previous record for most billion-dollar weather and climate disasters was 16, which occurred in 2011 and 2017, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announcement on Friday. 

Among the events from this record-breaking year were the fires in California, the western drought, 10 severe storms, three tornadoes and seven hurricanes. These events left 262 people dead in addition to their severe economic impacts. 

Overall, there was $95 billion in damage, the fourth most costly year since 1980.

2020 is the sixth consecutive year (2015-2020) in which 10 or more billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events have impacted the United States,” the report says. 

The events in 2020 that cost the most were Hurricane Laura, at $19 billion; the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington coming in at $16.5 billion; and the August derecho in Iowa and Illinois, which cost $11 billion. The record for most damages financially since 1980 is from 2017 when 16 weather disasters totaled $321.8 billion. 

“The number and cost of weather and climate disasters are increasing in the United States due to a combination of increased exposure (i.e., more assets at risk), vulnerability (i.e., how much damage a hazard of given intensity — wind speed, or flood depth, for example — causes at a location), and the fact that climate change is playing an increasing role in the increasing the frequency of some types of extremes that lead to billion-dollar disasters,” NOAA climatologist Adam Smith told The Hill. 

Since 1980, there have been a total of 285 events that have cost more than $1 billion. These events combined have cost the United States $1.877 trillion in damage. 

Tags Adam Smith California Climate change climate disasters extreme weather National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Natural Disaster NOAA Weather hazards

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