Weather Blog: Record Number of U.S. Billion-Dollar Disasters In 2020 – NOAA

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On Friday January 8, The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its final report on which natural disasters cost $1 billion or more in damages last year.

After a record breaking hurricane season and devastating wildfires out west, the U.S. saw 22 billion-dollar disasters in 2020, resulting in at least 262 fatalities from these events.

The 22 billion-dollar disasters breakdown as follow:

  • 1 wildfire (Western wildfires across California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington)
  • 1 drought and heatwave (summer/fall across the western and central U.S.)
  • 3 tornado outbreaks (Southeast tornadoes from January 10-11, Tennessee tornadoes in the beginning of March, and the Easter Day outbreak).
  • 6 hurricanes & 1 tropical storm (Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, Zeta, and Eta)
  • 10 severe weather events (including the Midwest Derecho on August 10 and 2 hailstorm events)

NOAA states “The seven billion-dollar tropical cyclone were the most in one year since 1980”, which is when the government organization started tracking billion-dollar disasters. Combining the cost of the 6 hurricanes and Tropical Storm Eta was approximately $40.1 billion. NOAA says this is over 42% of the total damage in 2020 by billion-dollar disasters.

The wildfire season last year was extremely destructive and was the most active on record. Colorado’s three largest wildfires in history occurred this previous year. Across the country, wildfires scorched nearly 10.3 million acres in 2020. NOAA says this is above the 2000-2010 average by 51% and was the largest amount of acreage burned in the U.S. since at least 2000.

The United States had 285 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters since 1980.

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