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U.S. struck with historic number of billion-dollar disasters in 2023

  • U.S. struck with historic number of billion-dollar disasters in 2023
  • Last year was the nation’s 5th-warmest year on record.

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NOAA
NOAA is an agency that enriches life through science. Our reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as we work to keep the public informed of the changing environment around them.

An unprecedented number of billion-dollar disasters — 28 in total — struck the U.S. in 2023, as the remarkably warm year wrapped up with a record-warm December.  

“For millions of Americans impacted by a seemingly endless onslaught of weather and climate disasters, 2023 has hit a new record for many extremes,” said NOAA Chief Scientist Sarah Kapnick. “Record warm U.S. temperatures in December, a record-setting number of U.S. billion-dollar disasters in 2023 and potentially the warmest year on record for the planet are just the latest examples of the extremes we now face that will continue to worsen due to climate change.”

Here’s a recap of the climate and extreme weather events across the U.S. in 2023:

Climate by the numbers

2023

The average annual temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 54.4 degrees F — 2.4 degrees above the 20th-century average — ranking as the nation’s fifth-warmest year in NOAA’s 129-year climate record. 

The year ended on a record-warm note as well. December 2023 ranked as the nation’s warmest December with an average temperature of 39.97 degrees F, 7.29 degrees above normal, besting the previously record-warmest December of 2021. 

Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Texas each saw their warmest year on record, while Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Vermont and Virginia each saw their second-warmest. An additional 24 states experienced a top-10 warmest year on record.

Annual precipitation across the contiguous U.S. totaled 29.46 inches (0.48 of an inch below average), which placed 2023 in the driest third of the climate record. Louisiana had its eighth-driest year on record, while Maine ranked fifth wettest and Vermont and Connecticut both ranked sixth wettest. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island all saw a top-10 wettest year.

Drought reached a peak coverage of 46.3% of the contiguous U.S. at the beginning of 2023. Drought coverage across the nation shrank as atmospheric rivers and the summer monsoon brought above-normal precipitation to much of the western U.S., recharging some of the major reservoirs that dropped to their lowest levels in 2022. Drought reduced to a minimum extent of 19% on May 30 — the smallest footprint for the contiguous U.S. since mid-2020.

Billion-dollar disasters in 2023

Last year, the U.S. experienced 28 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. This surpasses 2020 — which had 22 events — for the highest number of billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. on record. 

“The U.S. was hit with more billion-dollar disasters in 2023 than any other year on record, highlighting the increasing risks from our changing climate,” said NOAA NCEI Director Deke Arndt. “Record heat waves, drought, wildfires and floods are a sobering reminder of the consequences of the long-term warming trend we’re seeing across our country. These findings underscore the need for the data products and services provided by NOAA, like this annual report, to help create a more informed and climate-ready nation.”

The 28 events from 2023 include:

  • 17 severe weather/hail events.
  • 4 flooding events.
  • 2 tropical cyclones (Idalia in Florida and Typhoon Mawar in Guam).
  • 2 tornado outbreaks.
  • 1 winter storm/cold wave event.
  • 1 wildfire event (Maui Island of Hawaii).
  • 1 drought and heat wave event.

The total cost for these 28 disasters was $92.9 billion, but that may rise by several billion dollars when the costs of the December 16-18, 2023, East Coast storm and flooding event are fully accounted for.

The most costly events in 2023 were the Southern/Midwestern drought and heat wave event at $14.5 billion, and the Southern/Eastern severe weather event in early March, at $6.0 billion.

Adding the 2023 events to NOAA’s billion-dollar disaster record dating back to 1980, the U.S. has sustained 376 separate weather and climate disasters. The damage costs for each of these events reached or exceeded $1 billion. The cumulative cost for these 376 events exceeds $2.660 trillion.

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