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Number Of Billion-Dollar Disasters Increasing

The time between separate billion dollar disasters is decreasing as the number of disasters is increasing.
Credit: Climate Central & FOX54 Weather

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters to hit the U.S. each year has been increasing from an average of 3 events per year in the 1980s to 12 events per year in the 2010s.  

Between 1980-2020, the time between billion-dollar disasters in a calendar year has steadily dropped, according to new analysis by Climate Central, with as little as two weeks on average between disasters in 2020. 

The average time between billion-dollar disasters has dropped from 82 days in the 1980s to 26 days in the 2010s. In the last five years (2016-2020), there have been just 18 days on average between billion-dollar disasters. 

Last year saw a record-shattering total of 22 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the U.S., costing a combined $99 billion (CPI-adjusted) in damages, according to NOAA. The last five years account for nearly a third of the cost of billion-dollar disasters since 1980. This figure focuses on the infrastructure aspect of damage, and typically leaves out many cultural aspects of disaster damage. 

So far not much is changing in 2021. 

Credit: NOIAA

As of October 8th, there have been 18 weather/climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each to affect the United States. These events include: 

  • 1 drought event 
  • 2 flooding events, 
  • 9 severe storm events,
  • 4 tropical cyclone events, 
  • 1 wildfire event
  • 1 winter storm event.

 Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 538 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.  

The U.S. has sustained 308 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 308 events exceeds $2.085 trillion.

The 1980–2020 annual average is 7.1 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2016–2020) is 16.2 events (CPI-adjusted).