2020 smashed the record for billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, NOAA says

13 min read
An astonishing 22 separate weather and climate disasters, costing over a billion dollars each, occurred in the US in 2020, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released Friday.
(CNN) 2020 will be remembered for many unpleasant reasons -- the global pandemic, political unrest, sky-high unemployment -- and now we can add a record number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters to the list.

An astonishing 22 separate weather and climate disasters costing over $1 billion each occurred in the US in 2020 , the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Friday.

This shatters the annual record of 16 costly disasters in both 2011 and 2017

"This is the sixth year in a row that the US has experienced 10 or more separate billion-dollar disasters," NOAA climatologist Adam Smith told CNN Weather . Ten disasters has become the more recent standard of what to expect in a year, he added.

"To more than double (the number of events) at 22 and then have six more than the previous record is pretty extreme," Smith said.

The cost of disasters is estimated using data from insured and uninsured losses and covers the private and public sectors.

The cost last year was double the average

The cumulative cost of these disasters in 2020 is $95 billion, the fourth-highest total annual cost since 1980, behind 2017, 2005 and 2012 (all inflation-adjusted to 2020 dollars).

"This is more than double the 41-year average annual cost," Smith said.

The costliest event of 2020 was Hurricane Laura , racking up $19 billion in damage, followed by the historic Western wildfires at $16.5 billion and the August derecho through the Midwest, totaling $11 billion in damage.

2020 brings the total cost of weather and climate disasters over the last five years to over $600 billion dollars, averaging more than $120 billion a year -- both new records.

A silver lining may be how much more costly 2020 could have been. With a record number of tropical cyclones making landfall in the US in 2020, Smith attributes to "sheer luck" that major cities, particularly in Florida, were not impacted, keeping the cost below $100 billion.

The costliest year -- 2017,…
Monica Garrett, CNN Meteorologist
Read full article