Ag Weather Forum

Weather Disasters Leaped to a Record Number During 2023

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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The U.S. has logged 376 weather and climate disasters with at least $1 billion in damage since 1980. More than 20% of that total -- 87 events -- have occurred from 2020 through 2023. (NOAA/NCEI graphic)

The year 2024 is starting out with a rash of extreme weather and climate events, including blizzards, treacherous icy roads, bitter cold, deadly tornadoes and crashing ocean waves. As these events unfold, a look back at 2023 shows that a record number of high-damage disasters, with a cost of at least $1 billion occurred. And, that record was not just a minor step to the front either; 28 $1-billion-dollar weather and climate disasters occurred in 2023, beating the former record of 22 such events in 2020 by 27% -- a true leap into new-record territory. The tracking of billion-dollar damage events dates back to 1980.

The total cost of the 28 disasters with the $1 billion threshold in 2023 comes to a preliminary figure of $92.9 billion. These events also claimed the lives of at least 492 people.

Drought from spring through fall in the South and the Midwest, along with a deadly summer heat wave, caused the most damage in the record-breaking 2023 year. The total damage from this event reached $14.5 billion. 2023 also featured a wide swing in drought coverage, from a maximum 46% of the contiguous U.S. on Jan. 3 to a minimum 19% on May 30, which was the lowest such figure since 2020.

Other details in the weather and climate disaster summary include:

-2023 featured 20 named tropical cyclones, the fourth highest total since 1950.

-The preliminary 2023 tornado count was above average at 1,197; an additional 97 possible tornadoes between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 are being verified.

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

-Over the last seven years (2017-2023), 137 separate billion-dollar disasters have killed at least 5,500 people and cost greater than $1 trillion in damage.

-Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 376 separate weather and climate disaster events with the overall damage or cost of at least $1 billion per event (based on the 2023 Consumer Price Index). The total cost of those 376 weather and climate disasters is more than $2.660 trillion.

-The record number of weather and climate disasters in U.S. occurred in a year when global temperatures were the hottest in recorded human history, according to Europe's top climate agency as reported by the Washington Post. World temperatures beat the previous record by almost two-tenths of a degree, the largest jump scientists have ever observed.

The full NOAA/NCEI 2023 U.S. climate summary is available here:

Assessing the U.S. Climate in 2023 | News | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) (

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Bryce Anderson

Bryce Anderson
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