2021 costliest year on record for weather and climate disasters


ORLANDO, Florida. – From the third busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record to widespread tornado activity and wildfires that have scorched a combined 964,000 acres across the United States, there has been no shortage of large weather stories throughout 2021.

In 2021, 688 people were killed in 20 separate weather and climate disasters in the United States, ranking as the highest number of disaster-related deaths since 2011 and more than double the death toll in 2020.

Along with lives lost, these 20 events each surpassed the billion-dollar mark, ranking 2021 as the second-highest number of billion-dollar disasters recorded in a calendar year. And if that record sounds familiar, that’s because it follows the $22 billion event record set in 2020.

Here is the list compiled by NOAA showing the 20 events in 2021:

  • 1 winter storm/cold snap event (concentrated in the Deep South and Texas).

  • 1 wildfire (wildfires in western Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington).

  • 1 episode of drought and heat wave (summer/fall in the western United States).

  • 2 floods (in California and Louisiana).

  • 3 tornado outbreaks (including December tornado outbreaks).

  • 4 tropical cyclones (Elsa, Fred, Ida and Nicholas).

  • 8 severe weather events (in many parts of the country, including the December Midwestern derecho).

Although 2021 ranks second in the number of billion dollar weather events, it ranks first in the total damage price.

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The costliest storm of the year was Hurricane Ida, with a total of $75 billion in damage. The storm reached Category 4 strength when it made landfall in Louisiana exactly 20 years after Hurricane Katrina. After making landfall, the remnants caused outbreaks of tornadoes and flooding in the northeast.

This year’s billion dollar disaster total is approximately $145 million. The total exceeds the damages set the previous year by $43 million.

Billion Dollar Disasters of 2021

2021 Temperature Ranking

Many northeastern, Great Lakes, Plains and western states experienced some of their warmest years on record in 2021, while Alaska experienced the coldest year since 2012.

But averaging the highs and lows at all reporting stations in the contiguous United States, there was no doubt that this was an exceptionally warm year.

According to NOAA, in 2021 the average temperature was 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.5 degrees above average. This ranks 2021 as the fourth warmest. And those record years have become a trend, with the six hottest years on record occurring in the past nine years.

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10 hottest American years on record

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