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US saw a historic number of billion-dollar disasters in 2023: NOAA

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(NEW YORK) — Last year proved to be one of the costliest in the United States due to extreme weather disasters, according to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The U.S. was hit with more billion-dollar disasters in 2023 than any other year on record, highlighting the increased risk stemming from a changing climate, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information announced Tuesday.

There were 28 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters last year, smashing the previous record set in 2020 of 22 billion-dollar disasters, according to the report.

These disasters included 17 severe storms, four flooding events, two tropical cyclones, two tornado outbreaks, one winter storm, one wildfire, and one drought and heat wave event. The firestorm that caused the Maui wildfires on Aug. 8, 2023, and Hurricane Idalia, which struck Florida’s Gulf Coast at the end of August, were included in those expensive disasters.

The U.S. disaster costs for 2023 were $92.9 billion, but this total annual cost may rise by several billion dollars as additional costs from identified events are reported. There were at least 492 fatalities associated with these events, according to the report.

The costliest events in 2023 were the southern/midwestern drought and heat wave that occurred during spring to fall of 2023, totaling $14.5 billion, and the southern and eastern severe weather event that occurred in early March, which tallied $6 billion.

Over the last seven years, from 2017 to 2023, 137 separate billion-dollar disasters have killed at least 5,500 people and cost greater than $1 trillion in damage, according to NOAA’s report.

Last year was also a record 13th consecutive year where the U.S. experienced 10 or more billion-dollar disasters and the fourth consecutive year (from 2020 to 2023) where 18 or more billion-dollar disasters impacted the U.S.

Since records began in 1980, the U.S. has sustained 376 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages or costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on the consumer price index adjustment to 2023) per event, the report stated. The total cost of these 376 events exceeds $2.66 trillion.

The U.S. also experienced several climate and weather anomalies in 2023.

The Atlantic basin saw 20 named tropical cyclones during 2023 — ranking fourth for the most named tropical systems in a year since 1950, according to NOAA.

The preliminary tornado count for 2023 was above average, with 1,197 tornadoes reported and an additional 97 preliminary tornadoes still under verification for the Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 period.

Drought coverage across the contiguous U.S. ranged from a maximum extent of 46% occurring on Jan. 3, 2023, and a minimum coverage of 19% on May 30, the lowest contiguous U.S. footprint since the drought of mid-2020, according to the report.

Flash drought impacted much of the Lower Mississippi Valley during the latter half of 2023, resulting in the greatest coverage of exceptional drought in Louisiana with 74.2% of the state measuring at exceptional drought on Nov. 14.

Annual precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 29.46 inches, 0.48 inches below average, ranking in the driest third of the historical record, according to the report.

Record heat in 2023 likely exacerbated drought conditions.

The average annual temperature of the contiguous U.S. in 2023 was 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.4 degrees above average and ranking fifth-warmest on record. Globally, 2023 was the hottest year on record, Copernicus, the European Union’s climate change service, announced Tuesday.

 

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