NOAA released on April 6th their first report on the billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that have affected the United States so far this year. They report that there have been three events that have taken place, one of which involving severe storms while the other two dealt with winter storms. Each one of the these weather events have cost at least $1 billion (value accounts for inflation, CPI-adjusted). According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, a division of NOAA, “these events resulted in the deaths of 34 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.”
This quick start to the billion-dollar disasters comes at no surprise. The last two years are at a higher pace of billion-dollar disasters than this year through March. 2017 had the most of the particular weather events with six followed by four in 2016. 2018 is ranked at third with three disasters. Keep in mind the average at this point is 1.2 billion-dollar disasters, so this is quite unusual. Based on the graph below, most years in this century have fallen above the average line to date. Looking long-term through the end of each year, all of the years this century have ended above the yearly average of six.
Climate change can be linked to this. The warming of the Earth is studied to increase extreme weather events, and these extreme events lead to more expensive storms. In 2017, it was the most costly year on record for the US. $309.4 billion worth of damage in 2017 crushed the previous record of $219.2 billion (CPI-adjusted) from 2005. As you may recall, that was the year of Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. 2017 was an even worse year as 16 different billion-dollar weather events impacted the nation. That included Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, several severe weather events, such as the hail storm that struck Denver, CO, and even a freeze in the Southeast caused widespread damage to the crops in March.
Hopefully 2018 will end up below the average of six costly disasters and that we don’t follow 2017’s destruction.
Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2018). https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/