Risk Management

U.S. Billion Dollar Weather Disasters Doubled in Last Decade

The nation experienced 14 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters last year totaling $45 billion.
Lauren MuskettJanuary 10, 2020

The United States saw 14 weather and climate disasters that caused financial losses of at least $1 billion last year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual U.S. climate assessment. 2019 was also the second-wettest year on record behind 1973.

In total, the weather events cost $45 billion and caused at least 44 deaths. They included wildfires in Alaska and California, two tropical cyclones, and inland flooding that affected the Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi Rivers.

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Tropical Storm Imelda brought heavy flooding to the Houston area.

“During the 2010s, the nation saw a trend of an increasing number of billion-dollar inland flooding events,” the report said. “Even after adjusting for inflation, the U.S. experienced more than twice the number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters during the 2010s (119) as compared with the 2000s (59).”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has tracked 258 billion-dollar disasters since 1980. The total cost of those storms and climate events between 2015 and 2019 was in excess of $525 billion, the highest figure on record.

Climate scientists said the number of major inland flooding events also increased over the course of the decade.

Last spring, the bomb cyclone blizzard led to historic flooding throughout the Midwest. Floods across the Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi Rivers alone produced damages in excess of $20 billion.

Precipitation across the U.S. totaled 34.78 inches (4.48 inches above the long-term average), ranking 2019 as the second-wettest year on record and 0.18 inch less than the total for the wettest year set in 1973.

Average temperatures across the lower contiguous 48 states were .7 degrees Fahrenheit above last century’s average.

Alaska, Georgia, and North Carolina each saw their hottest year on record. Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin each had their wettest year on record.

NOAA and NASA are scheduled to release their joint global climate assessment next week.

Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images