Superstorm Sandy damage in East Haven, Connecticut. Photo: Courtesy of David McCarthy.

In the U.S. last year, 16 weather-related disasters – including hurricanes, wildfires, and floods – each caused at least a billion dollars in damage.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been tracking the cost of weather-related events for nearly 40 years. In that time, no year has seen more billion-dollar disasters than 2017, even after adjusting for inflation.

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But it was not an outlier. On average, these events are getting more frequent. Eight of the nine years with the greatest number of billion-dollar disasters have occurred within the past decade.

Smith: “Climate change is playing a role in increasing the frequency and intensity of some types of these extreme weather events and climate events that lead to billion-dollar disasters.”

That’s NOAA climatologist Adam Smith. He says that droughts, wildfires and inland floods are expected to get more severe. And with sea-level rise and more extreme storms, coastal areas are increasingly vulnerable.

So he says cities and states need to prepare now because billion-dollar disasters are likely to become even more common in the future.

Smith: “Our vulnerability has increased and the costs continue to rise.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Daisy Simmons

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...