Extreme Weather and Climate Change

One of the most visible consequences of a warming world is an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. The National Climate Assessment finds that the number of heat waves, heavy downpours, and major hurricanes has increased in the United States, and the strength of these events has increased, too.

A measure of the economic impact of extreme weather is the increasing number of billion-dollar disasters, which is shown below. The map shows all types of weather disasters, some of which are known to be influenced by climate change (floods, tropical storms) and some for which a climate influence is uncertain (tornadoes).

Billion-Dollar Extreme Weather Events, 2000-2019

Click on any circle to learn about one of the billion-dollar weather events, or any state to learn about billion-dollar droughts, between January 2000 and June 2019. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. The Top 10 costliest events are listed at the bottom of this page, along with a description of major U.S. droughts since 2000.

Climate change is expected to worsen the frequency, intensity, and impacts of some types of extreme weather events. For example, sea level rise increases the impacts of coastal storms and warming can place more stress on water supplies during droughts.

That’s why many cities, state, and businesses are taking steps to prepare for more extreme weather.

Learn more about the links between climate change and:

Top 10 U.S. Disasters by Cost Since 2000

Event and Date

Cost (in 2019 billion dollars)

(costs unadjusted for inflation)

Fatalities

Description

Hurricane Katrina

August 2005

$166.3

($125)

1,833

Hurricane Katrina initially hit as a Category 1 near Miami, Fla., then as a stronger Category 3 along the eastern La.-western Miss. coastlines, resulting in severe storm surge damage (maximum surge probably exceeded 30 feet) along the La.-Miss.-Ala. coasts, wind damage, and the failure of parts of the levee system in New Orleans. High winds and some flooding occurred in Ala., Fla., Ga., Ind., Ky., Miss., Ohio and Tenn.

Hurricane Harvey

August 2017

$130

($125)

89

Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Rockport, Texas. A large region of extreme rainfall produced historic flooding across Houston and surrounding areas. More than 30 inches of rainfall fell on 6.9 million people (and some areas experienced over 50 inches) based on 7-day rainfall totals. The resulting flooding displaced over 30,000 people and damaged or destroyed over 200,000 homes and businesses.

Hurricane Maria

September 2017

$93.6

($90)

2,981

Hurricane Maria initially hit St. Croix and made landfall in southeast Puerto Rico as a Category 4 and strengthened to a Category 5 storm. The hurricane dropped 37 inches of rain, causing widespread flooding and landslides. The heavy winds caused extensive damage to the island’s agriculture, communication, transportation, and energy infrastructure. The hurricane was one of the deadliest storms to hit the United States, with significant indirect deaths in the storm’s aftermath.

Hurricane Sandy

October 2012

$73.5

($65)

159

Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage across several northeastern states (Conn., Del., Mass., Md., N.J., N.Y., R.I.) due to high wind and coastal storm surge, particularly in N.J. and N.Y. Damage from wind, rain and heavy snow also extended more broadly to other states (N.C., N.H., Ohio, Pa., Va., W.Va.), as Sandy merged with a developing Nor’easter. Sandy interrupted critical water and electrical services in major population centers and caused 159 deaths (72 direct, 87 indirect). Sandy also shut down the New York Stock Exchange for two consecutive business days, which last happened in 1888 due to a major winter storm.

Hurricane Irma

September 2017

$52

($50)

97

Hurricane Irma made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane at Cudjoe Key, Fla. after devastating the U.S. Virgin Islands— St John and St Thomas — as a Category 5 storm. 25% of buildings were destroyed and 65% were significantly damaged in the Florida Keys. Severe wind and storm surge occurred along the coasts of Florida and South Carolina. Irma maintained a maximum sustained wind of 185 mph for 37 hours, the longest in the satellite era. Irma also was a Category 5 storm for longer than all other Atlantic hurricanes except Ivan in 2004.

Hurricane Ike

September 2008

$36

($30)

112

Hurricane Ike made landfall in Texas as a Category 2 hurricane. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record by size, causing a considerable storm surge in coastal TX and significant wind and flooding damage in Ark., Ill., Ind., Ky., La., Mich., Mo., Ohio, Pa., Tenn. and Texas.

U.S. Drought/Heatwave

2012

$33.9

($30)

123

The 2012 drought is one of the most extensive to affect the United States since the 1930s, affecting more than half the country with major impacts to corn and soybean production, and deadly summer heat causing 123 deaths.

Hurricane Ivan

September 2004

$28.1

($20.5)

57

Hurricane Ivan made landfall on Gulf coast of Ala. as a Category 3 hurricane, with significant wind, storm surge, and flooding damage in coastal Ala. and Fla. Panhandle, along with wind/flood damage in the states of Ga., Miss., La., S.C., N.C., Va., W.Va., Md., Tenn., Ky., Ohio, Del., N.J., Pa., and N.Y.

Hurricane Wilma

October 2005

$25.5

($19)

35

Hurricane Wilma hit SW Florida as a Category 3 hurricane, resulting in strong damaging winds and major flooding across southeastern Florida. Prior to landfall, Wilma as a Category 5 recorded the lowest pressure (882 mb) ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.

Hurricane Michael

October 2018

$25.2

($25)

49

Hurricane Michael made landfall at Mexico Beach, Fla. as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with devastating winds of 155 mph and storm surge in excess of 15 feet. Mexico Beach was nearly destroyed, while Panama City suffered extensive damage. Michael’s intense winds caused billions in damages to agriculture and forestry far inland. Michael is the third Category 4 storm to make landfall in the U.S. since 2017.

U.S. Drought Events Since 2000

Date

Cost (in 2019 billion dollars)

(cost unadjusted for inflation)

Description

States

2018

$3.0

($3.0)

Many states were affected by extreme drought, and drought conditions persisted in the Corners region causing damage to crops.

Ariz., Colo., Kan., Mo., N.M., Okla., Texas, Utah

2017

$2.6

($2.5)

Severe drought damaged agricultural crops, including wheat and lack of feed forced ranchers to sell their cattle. This drought increased wildfire risk leading up to the 2017 wildfires.

Mont., N.D., S.D.

2016

$3.7

($3.5)

In California, the 5-year drought continued, destroying over 100 million trees. Stressed water supplies in the Northeast and Southeast impacted agricultural production.

Ala., Calif., Conn., Ga., Mass., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Pa., R.I., Tenn., Vt.

2015

$4.9

($4.5)

Drought conditions continued to affect California throughout 2015, heavily impacting the agricultural sector. Drought conditions improved in Texas and Oklahoma due to several major flood events.

Ariz., Calif., Idaho, Mont., Nev., Ore., Utah, Wash.

2014

$4.3

($4.0)

California experienced the worst drought on record. Surrounding states and parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas continued to experience severe drought conditions.

Ariz., Calif., Kan., Nev., N.M., Okla., Ore., Texas

2013

$11.6

($10.4)

Drought conditions slowly improved in Midwestern and Plains states but continued in western states. Moderate crop losses occurred across and the heat caused 53 deaths.

Ariz., Calif., Colo., Iowa, Idaho, Ill., Kan., Mich., Minn., Mo., N.D., Neb., N.M., Nev., Okla., Ore., S.D., Texas, Utah, Wash., Wis., Wyo.

2012

$33.9

($30.0)

The 2012 drought was the most extensive since the 1930s. Moderate to extreme drought conditions affected more than half the country. Costly drought impacts occurred in central states, with widespread harvest failure. The summer heatwave caused 123 direct deaths.

Calif., Nev., Idaho, Mont., Wyo., Utah, Colo., Ariz., N.M., Texas, N.D., S.D., Neb., Kan., Okla., Ark., Mo., Iowa, Minn., Ill., Ind., Ga.

2011

$13.9

($12.0)

Drought and heat wave conditions persisted. The majority of range and pastures in Texas and Oklahoma were in “very poor” condition. Heat conditions caused to 95 deaths.

Ariz., Kan., La., N.M., Okla., Texas

2009

$4.2

($3.5)

Drought conditions persisted across parts of the Southwest, Great Plains, and southern Texas, with Texas and California suffering the most agricultural losses.

Ariz., Calif., Kan., N.M., Okla., Texas

2008

$8.5

($7.0)

Severe drought and heat caused agricultural losses in areas of the South and West. Record low lake levels also occurred in areas of the Southeast.

Ala., Ark., Calif., Colo., Ga., Idaho, Ind., Kan., Ky., Md., Minn., Miss., Mont., N.C., N.D., N.J., N.M., Ohio, Okla., Ore., S.C., Tenn., Texas, Utah, Va., Wash., Wis.

2007

$4.5

($3.5)

Severe drought with periods of extreme heat, resulted in major crop yield loss, reduced stream flows and lake levels and caused 15 deaths.

Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Ky., La., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., N.C., N.D., N.Y., Neb., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Texas, Va., Wis., W.Va.

2006

$7.7

($6.0)

Severe drought affected crops, caused wildfires and low streams and rivers in the Great Plains and portions of the South and far West.

Ala., Ark., Colo., Fla., Ga., Iowa, Kan., La., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., N.D., N.M., Neb., Okla., S.D., Texas, Wyo.

2005

$2.0

($1.5)

Severe localized drought caused significant crop losses, especially for corn and soybeans.

Ark., Ill., Ind., Mo., Ohio, Wis.

2003

$7.0

($5.0)

Drought across western and central portions of the United States with losses to agriculture. Thirty-five deaths were caused by the heatwave.

Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Ill., Iowa, Kan., Mich., Minn., Mo., Mont., N.D., N.D., N.M., Neb., Ore., S.D., Wash., Wis.

2002

$13.0

($9.0)

Large portions of 30 states experienced moderate to extreme drought conditions.

Ala., Ariz., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Iowa, Kan. La., Maine, Md., Mich., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.M., N.C., N.D., Ohio, Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Texas, Utah, Va., Wyo.

2000

$7.6

($5.0)

Severe drought and persistent heat over south-central and southeastern states caused significant losses to agriculture and related industries. The heat caused 140 deaths.

Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Fla., Ga., Iowa, Kan., La., Miss., Mont., Neb., N.M., Okla., Ore. S.C., Tenn., Texas