NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information says 2023 set a record for billion-dollar climate and weather disasters in the U.S.
There were 28 billion-dollar weather or climate disaster events in 2023, surpassing the old record of 22 events set in 2020.
The total price tag of 2023’s disasters was $92.9 billion, which may rise further as final accountings are made of December storms along the East Coast.
Events included 17 severe weather or hail incidents nationwide, two tropical cyclones, two tornado outbreaks, four flooding events, one drought event focused on the central and southern U.S., one winter storm event in the northeast U.S., and one wildfire event, when a firestorm destroyed the town of Lahaina in Hawaii.
Officials consider 2023 an active disaster year, marked by a “high frequency, high cost, and large diversity of extreme events that affect people’s lives and livelihoods.”
The NCEI says the pattern of frequent and costly disasters has emerged in the last four consecutive years, outlining a “new normal” of damaging weather events.
NCEI says a combination of factors drove the steep totals: There are more assets in harm’s way; more situations in which a given hazard like flooding or high winds can do damage; and a changing climate that is increasing the frequency of extreme conditions that make billion-dollar disaster events more likely.
Populations are also growing in places at relative high risk from disasters, such as on coastlines and in floodplains.
“Given all these compounding hazard risks, there is an increased need to focus on where we build, how we build, and investing in infrastructure updates that are designed for a 21st-century climate,” NCEI wrote in its report.