2021 most costly year on record for weather and climate disasters

Hurricane Ida tops list as the costliest event of year

Courtesy Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere

ORLANDO, Fla. – From the third busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record to widespread tornado activity and wildfires scorching a combined 964,000 acres across the U.S., there was no shortage of big weather stories throughout 2021.

In 2021, 688 people were killed over the span of 20 separate weather and climate disasters in the U.S., ranking as as the highest disaster-related fatalities since 2011 and more than double the death toll in 2020.

Along with lives lost, those 20 events each exceeded the $1 billion mark, ranking 2021 as the second-highest number of billion-dollar disasters recorded in one calendar year. And if that record sounds familiar, it is because this follows the record of $22 billion events set in 2020.

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

  • 1 winter storm/cold wave event (focused across the deep south and Texas).
  • 1 wildfire event (western wildfires across Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington).
  • 1 drought and heat wave event (summer/fall across western U.S.).
  • 2 flood events (in California and Louisiana).
  • 3 tornado outbreaks (including the December tornado outbreaks).
  • 4 tropical cyclones (Elsa, Fred, Ida and Nicholas).
  • 8 severe weather events (across many parts of the country, including the December Midwest derecho).

Although 2021 ranks second in the number of billion-dollar weather events, it ranks first when it comes to the total price of damages.

The top costliest storm of the year was Hurricane Ida, with a total of $75 billion dollars worth of damage. The storm reached Category 4 strength as it made landfall in Louisiana exactly 20 years after Hurricane Katrina. After landfall, the remnants caused tornado outbreaks and flooding across the Northeast.

The total from this year’s billion-dollar disasters are totaled at an approximate $145 million. The total exceeds the damage set the previous year by $43 million.

2021 Billion-Dollar Disasters

2021 temperature rankings

Many states across the Northeast, Great Lakes, Plains and West experienced some of their hottest years on record in 2021, while Alaska saw the coldest year since 2012.

But when averaging the highs and lows throughout all the reporting stations in the contiguous U.S, there was no doubt it was an exceptionally hot year.

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

10 Hottest U.S. Years On Record

About the Author:

Candace joined the News 6 team as the weekend morning meteorologist and reporter. She comes to Central Florida from Miami.