U.S. record for billion-dollar disasters shattered in 2023, with months still left to go

SI Advance: The United States has suffered 23 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters this year, the largest number since records began being kept nearly 45 years ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Monday.

Eighteen severe weather events, two flooding instances, the impacts of Hurricane Idalia, Hawaii’s wildfire and a powerful winter storm comprise the record-breaking total, according to the NOAA, ranging from long-term inundation in California to an arctic blast that gripped the Northeast earlier this year.

This year’s disasters have already cost $57.6 billion in damages and at least 253 deaths, federal officials said, with other potential billion-dollar events like Tropical Storm Hilary’s West Coast impacts and a persistent drought that parched the South and Midwest still under review.

Last year, 18 events cost the U.S. a total of $165 billion, the Advance/SILive.com previously reported. The record for the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters was formerly held by 2020, when 20 individual billion-dollar disasters occurred.

The U.S. has sustained a total of 371 separate weather and climate disasters that resulted in at least $1 billion since 1980 after being adjusted for inflation, exceeding $2.615 trillion, according to NOAA.

“We’re seeing the fingerprints of climate change all over our nation,” Adam Smith, a climatologist with NOAA, told the Associated Press. “I would not expect things to slow down anytime soon.”

Smith said experts are observing damage costs rise with increased physical exposure to climate and weather dangers, coupled with heightened intensity from those individual events. Additionally, severe events can occur back-to-back, making it difficult to recover, both financially and physically.

“The high count and cost of these billion-dollar disasters results from our ever-growing exposure to extremes such as where and how we build,” said Smith. “Our vulnerability to these extremes is also increasingly amplified by the influence of climate change that is supercharging some of these events into billion-dollar disasters.” Read more>>