U.S. Has Had 18 Weather Events Each With $1 Billion Losses Thus Far in 2021

October 12, 2021

Through the end of September, there have been 18 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the U.S. during 2021.

These events include one drought/heat wave event, two flooding events, nine severe storm events, four tropical cyclone events, one wildfire event and one winter storm/cold wave event. This is four events shy of the 2020 annual record of 22 events, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration environmental report.

Through September, disasters in 2021 have also caused more than twice the number of fatalities than from all the events that occurred in 2020.

In its latest monthly summary, the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information updated the 2021 billion-dollar weather and climate disaster dataset to include 10 September events — five severe storm events, four tropical cyclone events and one wildfire event.

The U.S. disaster costs for the first nine months of 2021 are $104.8 billion, already surpassing the disaster costs for all of 2020 ($100.2 billion, inflation-adjusted).

Since records began in 1980, NCEI says the U.S. has sustained 308 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on the CPI adjustment to 2021) per event. The total cost of these 308 events exceeds $2.085 trillion. Disaster costs over the last five years (2017-2021) will exceed a record $700 billion, reflecting the increased exposure and vulnerability of the U.S. to extreme weather and climate events, according to the report.

Year’s Extremes

Hurricane Ida is the most costly disaster to-date in 2021 — exceeding $60 billion — and will be ranked among the top-five most costly hurricanes on record (since 1980) for the U.S. Ida’s total cost will likely increase further, which will be reflected in our end-of-year report.

The Atlantic Basin hurricane season continued to be active with 20 named storms identified during the first nine months of 2021. In September alone, nine new named storms formed — Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa and Victor.

According to the September 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report, approximately 47.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up about one percent from the end of August. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the Midwest and central Plains and rapidly developed across the southern Plains during the second half of September. Drought severity and/or coverage lessened across parts of the West, northern Plains and New England, according to the report.

The western U.S. continues to battle an active fire season in 2021. By the end of September, almost six million acres were consumed across the U.S. This is approximately 500,000 acres less than the year-to-date 10-year (2011-2020) average.

Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Climate Report for September 2021.

Photo: Nathan Fabre checks on his home and boat destroyed by Hurricane Ida, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Lafitte, La. “We lost everything,” said Fabre about the destruction of his home. (AP Photo/John Locher)