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, 2000-2016

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 2017. (Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are not included in this data.) 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:

Event and Date Cost Fatalities Description
Top 10 U.S. Disasters by Cost Since 2000
Hurricane Katrina
August 2005
$148 billion 1,833 The hurricane initially hit as a Category 1 near Miami, FL, then as a stronger Category 3 along the eastern LA-western MS coastlines, resulting in severe storm surge damage (maximum surge probably exceeded 30 feet) along the LA-MS-AL 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 Sandy
October 2012
$65.7 billion 159 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.
Drought
2012
$30.0-$30.3 billion 123 The 2012 drought was the most extensive in the U.S. since the 1930s. Moderate to extreme drought conditions affected more than half the country for a majority of 2012. Costly impacts included widespread harvest failure for corn, sorghum and soybean crops, among others. The associated summer heat wave also caused 123 direct deaths, but the excess mortality due to heat stress is still unknown.
Hurricane Ike
September 2008
$29.2 billion 112 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. Severe gasoline shortages occurred in the Southeast due to damaged oil platforms, storage tanks, pipelines and refineries.
Hurricane Wilma
October 2005
$19 billion 35 The Category 3 hurricane hit SW Florida, 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 Rita
September 2005
$19 billion 119 The Category 3 hurricane hit Texas-Louisiana border coastal region, creating significant storm surge and wind damage along the coast, and some inland flooding in the Fla. panhandle, Ala., Miss., La., Ark., and Texas. Prior to landfall, Rita reached the third lowest pressure (897 mb) ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.
Hurricane Charley
August 2004
$18.5 billion 35 The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in southwest Florida, resulting in major wind and some storm surge damage in FL, along with some damage in the states of S.C. and N.C..
Hurricane Ivan
September 2004
$17.2 billion 57 The Category 3 hurricane made landfall on Gulf coast of Ala., 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.
Drought
2011
$12.0-$12.4 billion 95 In Texas and Oklahoma, a majority of range and pasture lands were classified in “very poor” condition for much of the 2011 growing season.
Hurricane Frances
September 2004
$11.1 billion 48 The Category 2 hurricane made landfall in east-central Fla., causing significant wind, storm surge, and flooding damage in FL, along with considerable flood damage in the states of Ga., N.C., N.Y. and S.C. due to 5-15 inches of rain.
Year Cost Fatalities Description States Affected
U.S. Drought Events since 2000
2016 $3.5–$3.6 billion 0 California’s 5-year drought persisted while new areas of extreme drought developed in states across the Northeast and Southeast. The drought in California has damaged forests where over 100 million trees have perished creating a public safety hazard. Agricultural impacts were reduced in California but agricultural impacts developed in the Northeast and Southeast due to stressed water supplies. Ala., Calif., Conn., Ga., Mass., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Pa., R.I., Tenn., Vt.
2015 $4.5 billion 0 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 billion 0 Historic drought conditions affected the majority of California for all of 2014, making it the worst drought on record for the state. Surrounding states and parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas also experienced continued severe drought conditions. This is a continuation of drought conditions that have persisted for several years. Ariz., Calif., Kan., Nev., N.M, Okla., Ore., Texas.
2013 $11 billion 53 The 2013 drought slowly dissipated from the historic levels of the 2012 drought, as conditions improved across many Midwestern and Plains states. However, moderate to extreme drought did remain or expand into western states. In comparison to 2011 and 2012 drought conditions the US experienced only moderate crop losses across the central agriculture states. Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Kan., Neb., Nev., N.M., Okla., Ore., S.D., Texas, Utah, Wyo.
2012 $30.0-$30.3 billion 123 The 2012 drought was the most extensive drought to affect the U.S. since the 1930s. Moderate to extreme drought conditions affected more than half the country for a majority of 2012. Costly drought impacts occurred across the central agriculture states resulting in widespread harvest failure for corn, sorghum and soybean crops, among others. The associated summer heatwave also caused 123 direct deaths, but an estimate of the excess mortality due to heat stress is still unknown. Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Ga., Idaho, Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Minn., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.M., N.D., Okla., S.D., Texas, Utah, Wyo.
2011 $12.0-$12.4 billion 95 Drought and heat wave conditions created major impacts for affected areas. In Texas and Oklahoma, a majority of range and pastures were classified in “very poor” condition for much of the 2011 crop growing season. Ariz., Kan., La., N.M., Okla., Texas
2009 $5.0-$5.4 billion 0 Drought conditions occurred during much of the year across parts of the Southwest, Great Plains, and southern Texas causing agricultural losses in numerous states. The largest agriculture losses occurred in Texas and California. Ariz., Calif., Kan., N.M., Okla., Texas
2008 $2.0-$2.2 billion 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. Calif., Ga., N.C., S.C., Tenn., Texas
2007 $5.0-$5.6 billion 15 Severe drought with periods of extreme heat over most of the Southeast and parts of the Great Plains, Ohio Valley, and Great Lakes area reduced crop yields, stream flows and lake levels. Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Ky., La., Mich., Minn., Miss., Neb., N.Y., N.C., N.D., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Texas, Va., W.Va., Wis.
2006 $6.0-$6.9 billion 0 Severe drought affected crops in the Great Plains and across portions of the South and far West. Ala., Ark., Calif., Colo., Fla., Ga., Iowa, Kan., La., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., N.M., N.D., Okla., S.D., Texas, Wyo.
2005 $1.0-$1.2 billion 0 Severe localized drought caused significant crop losses, especially for corn and soybeans. Ark., Ill., Ind., Mo., Ohio, Wis.
2002 $10.0-$12.9 billion 0 Moderate to extreme drought was experienced over large portions of 30 states, including the West, Great Plains, and much of the eastern U.S. Ala., Ariz., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Iowa, Kan., La., Maine, Md., Mich., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.J., N.M., N.C., N.D., Ohio, Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Texas, Utah, Va., Wyo.
2000 $4.0-$5.4 billion 140 Severe drought and persistent heat over south-central and southeastern states caused significant losses to agriculture and related industries. Ala., Ariz., Ark, Calif., Colo., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Iowa, Kan., La., Miss., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.M., N.C., Okla., Ore., S.C., Tenn., Texas, Utah, Wash., Wyo.