US hit by 25 reported billion-dollar climate disasters in 2023

Fire scorched the Wahikuli Terrace neighborhood in the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui in Hawaii on Aug 15, 2023. [Reuters]

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — NOAA — reports the U.S. has seen 25 separate weather or climate "disasters" — events causing damage or losses exceeding $1 billion — so far this year, the highest number since the agency began tracking such events 43 years ago.

In a report issued this week, NOAA said severe thunderstorms moving through Oklahoma and other southern Plains states on September 23 and 24 brought high winds and large hail, causing enough damage to rank as the 25th weather disaster so far in 2023.

The agency said disasters through October of this year included 19 severe storms, two flooding events, a winter storm in the northeastern U.S., a drought and heat wave in the central and southern states, one wildfire (on Maui in August), and one tropical cyclone (Hurricane Idalia in Florida).

NOAA said these events took the lives of 464 people and had a severe economic impact on the regions where they occurred. The total cost in damages from these events was more than $73 billion. The year-to-date tally exceeds 2020, which saw 19 disasters through October.

NOAA reports the annual average number of such disaster events between 1980 and 2022 was 8.1 per year. The agency reports the annual average jumped in the most recent five years (2018-2022) to 18 disasters per year.

Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 373 separate weather and climate events resulting in overall damages or costs reaching or exceeding $1 billion, according to NOAA. The total cost of these 373 events exceeds $2.645 trillion.