Of all recorded weather disasters in U.S. history, tropical cyclones—known as hurricanes when occurring in the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and Eastern North Pacific Oceans—have caused the most deaths and destruction. While much of the information on this page focuses on hurricanes, some of the numbers account for total weather disasters, including flooding, severe storms, and wildfires.
The number of weather and climate disasters in the U.S. in the past three years (2020 to 2022) with losses exceeding $1 billion.
The total approximate cost of damages from weather and climate disasters in the U.S. from 1980 to present (as of August 2023).
The average annual number of weather and climate disasters from 2018 to 2022. In 2022 alone, the U.S. experienced 18 billion-dollar disasters.
2023: Already Breaking Records
As of August, 2023 has broken multiple weather and climate records. Earth had its warmest July on record. July also set a record for the highest monthly sea surface temperature anomaly (+1.78°F or +0.99°C) of any month in NOAA’s 174-year record. According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information’s Global Annual Temperature Outlook, it is almost certain (over 99 percent) that the year 2023 will rank among the five warmest years on record, with a nearly 50-percent probability that 2023 will rank warmest on record.
In August, Tropical Storm Hilary made history as the first tropical storm to hit Southern California in 84 years. Rainfalls for Hilary broke virtually all daily rainfall records for the area.
Also as of August 2023, 15 confirmed weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each affected the U.S. Only one other year (2017) had more billion-dollar disasters in the first six months. The combined total of these 2023 disasters is $32.7 billion—second only to 2021 for total damage costs through the first half of any year since 1980.
2022: Year in Review
In 2022, there were 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. The total cost for these events was over $165 billion, making this the third most costly year on record, behind 2017 and 2005. The annual costs from billion-dollar disasters has exceeded $100 billion in five of the last six years (2017 to 2022), with 2019 being the only exception. The total cost for the last seven years (2016 to 2022) exceeds $1 trillion.
2020: New Annual Record
2020 set a new record for events, with 22 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters—shattering the previous annual record of 16 events in 2011 and 2017.
There were 13 severe storms, seven tropical cyclones, one drought, and one wildfire event in 2020, for a total cost of $95 billion. These events resulted in the deaths of 262 people.
Tropical Cyclones: The Highest Costs
Of the 363 billion-dollar weather disasters since 1980 (as of August 2023), tropical cyclones (or hurricanes) have caused the most damage: over $1.3 trillion total, with an average cost of $22.8 billion per event. They are also responsible for the highest number of deaths: 6,890 since 1980.
Harvey, Irma, and Maria: Making History
The cumulative costs of the 16 separate billion-dollar weather events in the U.S. in 2017 was $306.2 billion, breaking the previous cost record of $214.8 billion (2005). The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was among the most intense ever recorded. Record-breaking statistics, in addition to costs, include the following:
Hurricane Harvey: Harvey was the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event ever recorded in U.S. history, both in scope and peak rainfall amounts. The highest storm total rainfall report from Harvey was 60.58 inches. Prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Harvey became the deadliest U.S. hurricane in terms of direct deaths since Sandy (2012) and the deadliest hurricane to hit Texas since 1919. It was the first category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Texas since 1961, and the first category 4 to make landfall in the U.S. since 2004. Harvey lasted 117 hours, beating the previous record for duration of Hurricane Fern in 1971.
Hurricane Irma: With maximum winds of 185 miles per hour, Irma became the strongest storm on record to exist in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. It sustained those maximum winds speeds for 37 hours and spent three consecutive days as a category 5 hurricane—making it the longest of any cyclone in the world since 1932 to maintain that intensity. The occurrences of Harvey and Irma—making landfall within two weeks of each other—were the first time in recorded history that two category 4 or higher hurricanes struck the U.S. mainland in the same year.
Hurricane Maria: Maria was the first category 5 hurricane ever to make landfall in Dominica, and the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Puerto Rico since 1928. It was the deadliest of 2017’s three major storm, with over 2,900 fatalities.