Ag Weather Forum

Billion-Dollar Weather Disaster Events Set New Record

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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August featured eight new billion-dollar weather and climate disasters to push the yearly total to a new record of 23 such events. Recordkeeping of these events began in 1980. (NOAA/NCEI graphic)

Weather records for the month of August show that the volatile meteorological summer of 2023 showed no letup. That includes the occurrence of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. The NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) August 2023 U.S. Climate Report noted that "Eight new billion-dollar weather and climate disasters were confirmed this month including: Hurricane Idalia, the Hawaii Firestorm, the mid-July Northeast flooding and North Central Severe Weather, the Minnesota Hailstorms on Aug. 11 and several other severe storm events that occurred in July."

There have been 23 confirmed weather and climate disaster events this year, each with losses exceeding $1 billion. These disasters consisted of 18 severe storm events, two flooding events, one tropical cyclone, one winter storm and one wildfire event. For this year-to-date period, the first eight months of 2023 rank highest for disaster count, ahead of 2020 with 16 disasters.

The total cost of these events exceeds $57.6 billion, and they have resulted in 253 direct and indirect fatalities. This year had the largest number of billion-dollar disasters during a calendar year since records began in 1980. Some additional perspective: That total of 23 such events is 44% more than the previous record in 2020, with a full one-third -- four months -- yet to go in this calendar year.

Since these billion-dollar disaster records began in 1980, the United States has sustained 371 separate weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on the CPI adjustment to 2023) per event. The total cost of these 371 events exceeds $2.615 trillion.

Severe storms and hail at the end of July and in August that hit the central U.S. and caused agricultural damage made the list. Severe storms July 28-29 were cited as causing damage in several north central and eastern states. The report notes that "The states most impacted were Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin." Damage from these storms is estimated at $1.2 Billion. Later in August, hail on Aug. 11 in south central Minnesota caused an estimated $1.1 billion in total damages.

One big season-long event for which damage is still not tallied is drought cited by NCEI as "Southern and Midwest Drought Spring-Fall 2023". In the NCEI description, "Drought conditions were present across numerous Midwestern states (KS, MO, NE, IL, IN, IA, WI, LA and TX). The agriculture sector has been impacted across the affected states including damage to field crops from lack of rainfall. Ranchers have also been forced to sell off livestock early in some regions due to high feeding costs."

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