Hurricane Laura damage
National Guard troops respond in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Laura was Earth’s most expensive tropical cyclone of 2020, with $18.2 billion in damage. (Photo credit: Josiah Pugh)

Earth was besieged by a record 50 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2020, the most such disasters ever recorded after adjusting for inflation, said insurance broker Aon (formerly called Aon Benfield) in its annual report issued January 25. The previous record was 46 billion-dollar weather disasters, set in 2010 and 2011. The annual average of billion-dollar weather disasters since records began in 1990 is 29.

The combined economic losses (insured and uninsured) from all 416 weather and earthquake disasters cataloged by Aon in 2020 was $268 billion (2020 USD). Most of the 2020 total, by far, came from weather-related disasters ($258 billion), 29% above the 2001-2020 inflation-adjusted average. Those numbers make 2020 the fifth costliest year on record for weather-related disasters.

The year was the most expensive ever for severe weather (including severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail), with $63 billion in damage (previous record: $53 billion in 2011). More than 80% of the severe weather damage occurred in the U.S. in 2020, including the costliest severe weather outbreak in world history, according to Aon: an August 2020 event that featured a violent derecho in the U.S. midwest that caused $11 billion of the $12.6 billion in damage of the outbreak, the balance caused by tornadoes, hail, and other severe thunderstorms.

Insured damage from wildfires in 2020 was $12 billion – the third highest on record, behind only 2017 and 2018. The year 2020 marked the third time in the past four years that global insured losses from wildfires exceeded $10 billion – a threshold never crossed prior to 2017. Remarkably, wildfire has caused more than $70 billion in insured losses since 2000, 75% of that in the past five years alone.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Billion-dollar weather disasters 1992 – 2020, as cataloged by Aon. (Image credit: Jeff Masters)

Approximately 8,100 people died in natural disasters (including earthquakes) in 2020, the lowest annual death toll in data going back to 2000. The deadliest natural disaster of 2020 was the monsoon flooding in India, which killed an estimated 1,922 people. Elsewhere in South Asia – particularly in Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh – another 1,100 people lost their lives to unusually heavy monsoon rains.

The most expensive disaster of 2020 was the summer monsoon flooding in China, which caused $35 billion in damage. According to statistics from EM-DAT, the international disaster database, that total ranks as the third-most expensive non-U.S. weather disaster since accurate records began in 1990, behind 1998 flooding in China ($48 billion 2020 dollars) and 2011 flooding in Thailand ($47 billion 2020 dollars). In the Aon database, the 2020 floods in China rank as the fourth-most expensive non-U.S. weather disaster on record.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Rescuers brave floodwaters in Honduras to rescue people trapped by Hurricane Eta’s rains on November 6, 2020. (Image credit: Policia Nacional de Honduras)

One nation, Honduras, sees its costliest disaster on record

By comparing the Aon Benfield numbers to historical disaster costs at EM-DAT,  we see that Honduras was the only nation in 2020 that set a record for all-time most expensive weather-related disaster. (For comparison, seven nations had their most expensive weather-related natural disasters in history in 2019, two did so in 2018, three in 2017, four in 2016, and nine in 2015.)

Honduras suffered $6 billion in damage (24% of its $25 billion GDP) from Hurricane Eta in 2020, tying with Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (also with damages of $6 billion in 2020 dollars) as the nation’s most expensive disaster on record. Mitch arguably was more devastating than Eta, though: When Mitch struck, the GDP of Honduras was less than half its current inflation-adjusted size, so the hurricane wiped out a larger share of the nation’s economy than Eta did. However, Eta was followed by another devastating hit from Hurricane Iota, which did much of its $1.3 billion in damage to Honduras. The one-two punch to Honduras from Eta and Iota rivaled that of Hurricane Mitch.

Figure 3
Figure 3. U.S. weather disasters costing at least $1 billion in 2020. (Image credit: NOAA)

U.S. had a record 27 billion-dollar weather disasters

In the U.S., there were a record 27 billion-dollar weather disasters, according to Aon, 22  according to NOAA. These are by far the highest totals on record in both databases, with the previous record, set in 2017, being 20 in Aon’s database and 17 in NOAA’s. The difference in the 2020 tallies results from Aon’s cataloguing one extra severe weather event, and listing five separate wildfire events that caused more than $1 billion in damage. NOAA lumped all the wildfires together as one billion-dollar event. NOAA’s 2020 billion-dollar weather disaster list included one drought event, 13 severe storm events, a record seven tropical cyclone events, and one wildfire event. Together, these events killed 262 people and cost over $95 billion.

Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 285 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters (2020 dollars). The total cost of these 285 events is $1.876 trillion. The U.S. disaster costs from billion-dollar weather events over the past five years (2016-2020) exceeded $606 billion, a record for any five-year period. Billion-dollar events account for 80-85% of the total U.S. losses for all weather-related disasters.

NOAA’s 1980-2020 annual inflation-adjusted average is seven billion-dollar events, but over the past five years (2016-2020), the annual average has more than doubled, to 16.2 events. NOAA stated that the number and cost of disasters are increasing over time as a result of:
– a combination of increased exposure (i.e., values at risk of possible loss);
– vulnerability (i.e., how much damage at a location is caused by intensity [wind speed, flood depth]; and
– climate change’s increasing the frequency of some types of extremes that lead to billion-dollar disasters.

The record number of U.S. disasters in 2020 led to the American Red Cross’s providing record levels of disaster sheltering in 2020, according to a December 2 article by E&E News.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Global economic costs from weather-related disasters (adjusted for inflation), 1950-2020. Damages in 2020 were fifth-highest on record. (Image credit: Aon 2020 annual report)

U.N. calls attention to ‘staggering’ rise in natural disasters

An October 13, 2020 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) had found a “staggering” rise in climate-related disasters, including extreme weather events: those nearly doubled, from 3,656 in 1980-1999 to 6,681 in 2000-2019, based on data from EM-DAT. The number of major floods more than doubled, from 1,389 to 3,254, and the incidence of destructive storms increased from 1,457 to 2,034.

The U.N. report blamed human-caused climate change as a significant factor in the increased disasters, and warned, “It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.” The U.N. report authors called attention to “industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions to levels commensurate with the desired goal of keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius as set out in the Paris Agreement.”

Here are 2020’s 50 billion-dollar weather disasters, as tabulated by Aon:

1. Flooding, China, Jun.-Sep., $35 billion, 280 killed;
2. Hurricane Laura, U.S., Caribbean, Aug. 21-29, $18.2 billion, 68 killed;
3. Cyclone Amphan, India and Bangladesh, May 15-22, $15 billion, 133 killed;
4. Severe weather (derecho), Midwest U.S., Aug. 8-12, $12.6 billion, four killed;
5. Flooding, Kyushu, Japan, Jul. 3-15, $8.5 billion, 82 killed;
6. Hurricane Eta, Central America and southeastern U.S., Nov. 2-13, $8.3 billion, 309 killed;
7. Flooding, India, Jun.-Sep., $7.5 billion, 1,922 killed;
8. Hurricane Sally, southeastern U.S., Sep. 14-18, $7 billion, eight killed;
9. Hurricane Isaias, eastern U.S., Aug. 2-4, $5 billion, 18 killed;
10. Drought, western U.S., Jan.-Dec., $4.5 billion, zero killed;
11. Typhoon Haishen, Japan, Korean Peninsula, Sep. 5-8, $4 billion, four killed;
12. Flooding, India, Oct. 1-26, $4 billion, 152 killed;
13. Wildfire (Glass Fire), California (U.S.), Sep. 27-Oct. 5, $3.8 billion, zero killed;
14. Severe weather, Midwest, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern U.S., Apr. 10-14, $3.6 billion, 38 killed;
15. Hurricane Zeta, southeastern U.S., Oct. 24-30, $3.5 billion, 6 killed;
16. Wildfire (CZU Complex Fire), California (U.S.), Aug. 17-Sep. 22, $3.5 billion, one killed;
17. Flooding, France and Italy, Oct. 2-4, $3.2 billion, 16 killed;
18. Hurricane Delta, Plains and southeastern U.S., Oct. 7-11, $3 billion, 4 killed;
19. Wildfire (LNU Complex Fire), California (U.S.), Aug. 17-Sep. 16, $3 billion, five killed;
20. Drought, Brazil, Jan.-Dec., $3 billion, zero killed;
21. Severe weather, Midwest, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern U.S., Apr. 6-9, $3 billion, zero killed;
22. Severe weather, central and eastern U.S., Mar. 27-30, $2.9 billion, zero killed;
23. Windstorm Ciara, western and central Europe, Feb. 9-10, $2.7 billion, 14 killed;
24. Severe weather/Nashville tornado, central and eastern U.S., Mar. 2-5, $2.5 billion, 25 killed;
25. Drought, northern and western China, Jan.-Dec., $2.4 billion, zero killed;
26. Severe weather, Plains, Midwest, and southeastern U.S., May 16-21, $2.1 billion, one killed;
27. Severe weather, Rockies, Plains, and Midwest U.S., May 20-24, $1.8 billion, two killed;
28. Severe weather, Australia, Jan. 19-20, $1.8 billion, zero killed;
29. Wildfire (Beachie Creek Fire), Oregon (U.S.), Aug. 16-Oct. 5, $1.7 billion, four killed;
30. Flooding, Pakistan, Jun.-Sep., $1.5 billion, 410 killed;
31. Typhoon Hagupit, China and Taiwan, Aug. 2-4, $1.5 billion, six killed;
32. Severe weather, central and eastern U.S., Feb. 3-8, $1.5 billion, five killed;
33. Severe weather, Plains, Midwest, and southeastern U.S., May 4-5, $1.5 billion, zero killed;
34. Severe weather, Texas, southeastern U.S., May 27-28, $1.5 billion, zero killed;
35. Severe weather, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern U.S., Apr. 21-24, $1.5 billion, seven killed;
36. Flooding, Iran, Feb. 24–Apr. 30, $1.5 billion, 23 killed;
37. Severe weather, Canada, Jun. 13-14, $1.4 billion, zero killed;
38. Wildfire (North Complex Fire), California (U.S.), Aug. 18-Oct. 5, $1.3 billion, 15 killed;
39. Flooding, Canada, Apr. 26-30, $1.3 billion, one killed;
40. Hurricane Iota, Central America, Nov. 14-19, $1.3 billion, 102 killed;
42. Severe weather, Rockies, Midwest, Plains, southeastern U.S., Jul. 10-12, $1.3 billion, zero killed;
42. Severe weather, central and eastern U.S., Jan. 10-12, $1.3 billion, 12 killed;
43. Winter Weather, China, Apr. 19-25, $1.2 billion, zero killed;
44. Severe weather, Australia, Feb. 2-11, $1.2 billion, zero killed;
45. Severe weather, Australia, Oct. 31, $1.2 billion, zero killed;
46. Severe weather, Midwest, Plains, and southeastern U.S., Apr. 27-30, $1.1 billion, zero killed;
47. Typhoon Goni, Philippines, Nov. 1, $1 billion, 31 killed;
48. Typhoon Vamco, Philippines, Vietnam, Nov. 11-16, $1 billion, 103 killed;
49. Typhoon Maysak, Korean Peninsula, China, Sep. 1-4, $1 billion, 32 killed; and
50. Hurricane Hanna, Texas (U.S.), Jul. 25-27, $1 billion, zero killed.

Figure 5
Figure 5. GOES-16 visible images of the midwest U.S. derecho of August 10, 2020, with lightning superimposed. The $12.6 billion in damage from the severe weather outbreak that day made it the most expensive severe weather outbreak in world history. (Image credit: NOAA)

The 2020 breakdowns by month

January

– Severe weather, U.S.: A powerful winter storm over central and eastern sections of the U.S. January 10-12 killed 12 and did $1.3 billion in damage. The storm brought a multi-day severe weather outbreak to parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia, with 79 confirmed tornadoes.

– Severe weather, Australia: A series of hailstorms that affected the Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne metro areas January 19-20 caused $1.8 billion in damage.

February

– Windstorm Ciara, Europe: Windstorm Ciara killed 14 people and caused $2.7 billion in damage across 20 nations, primarily in western and central Europe, February 9-10.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on February 3-8 in the central and eastern U.S. spawned 37 tornadoes and killed five people, causing $1.5 billion in damage.

– Severe weather, Australia: A powerful East Coast Low brought severe weather and flooding to Queensland and New South Wales February 2-11, causing $1.2 billion in damage.

March

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on March 2-5 in the U.S. featured an EF3 tornado that ravaged Nashville, Tennessee and an EF4 tornado east of Nashville. The outbreak killed 25 people and caused $2.5 billion in damage. The damage from the Nashville tornado alone was $1.5 billion, making it one of the top-six most expensive tornadoes in U.S. history.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on March 27-30 across parts of the central and eastern U.S. spawned 24 tornadoes and caused $2.9 billion in damage. The hardest-hit states were Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana.

April

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on April 6-9 in the Midwest, Plains, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic U.S. brought widespread damage totaling $3 billion, mainly due to hail and high winds.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on April 10-14 in the Midwest, Plains, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern U.S. featured 138 tornadoes, with three EF4 tornadoes and 12 EF3 tornadoes. At least 38 people were killed, and damage was estimated at $3.6 billion. The 32 people killed by tornadoes during the outbreak made it the deadliest tornado outbreak since April 27-30, 2014. The April 12, 2020 EF4 tornado that began in Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi was 2.25 miles wide – the widest tornado in Mississippi history, and not far from the world-record 2.6-mile-wide tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31, 2013.

– Winter weather, China: A massive snowstorm dumped over two feet of snow in northeastern China on April 19-25, causing damages of $1.2 billion.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on April 21-24 in the Plains, Mid-Atlantic, and southeastern U.S. killed seven and did $1.5 billion in damage.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on April 27-30 in the Midwest, Plains, and southeastern U.S did $1.1 billion in damage. There were no fatalities reported.

– Flooding, Canada: Flooding in Canada April 26-30 killed one and did $1.3 billion in damage.

– Flooding, Iran: Flooding in Iran February 24-April 30 killed 23 and cost $1.5 billion.

May

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak May 4-5 in the Midwest, Plains, and southeastern U.S did $1.5 billion in damage.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak and flooding May 16-21 in the Midwest, Plains, and southeastern U.S killed one and did $2.1 billion in damage.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak on May 20-24 in the U.S. Midwest, Plains, and Rockies killed two and did $1.8 billion in damage.

– Cyclone Amphan, India and Bangladesh: After peaking as a category 5 storm with 160 mph winds, a weakening Cyclone Amphan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclone_Amphan) made landfall on May 20 near the India-Bangladesh border as a category 2 storm with 100 mph winds. The cyclone triggered evacuations of 4.2 million people and destroyed or damaged 2.8 million homes in India and 225,000 in Bangladesh. Amphan killed 133 people and left damages estimated at $15 billion, making it the most expensive Indian Ocean tropical cyclone in history. Of that total, $13.5 billion was in India – their most expensive tropical cyclone on record and second-costliest disaster in history, exceeded only by flood damages from the 2014 monsoon season ($17.4 billion 2020 dollars). The $1.5 billion in damage to Bangladesh from Amphan made it their third-costliest tropical cyclone on record.

– Severe weather, U.S.: An extensive severe weather outbreak hit Texas and the southeastern U.S. May 27-28. Supercells produced swaths of large and significant hail, notably near San Antonio, with hail up to 2.5 inches in diameter. Damaging winds hit the Houston metro area, with a gust of 65 mph reported in Harris County. Damage was $1.5 billion, with no fatalities.

June

– Severe weather, Canada: Severe thunderstorms in Calgary, Canada on June 13-14 brought damaging hail and flooding, causing damages of $1.4 billion – the fifth most expensive natural disaster in Canadian history. Thousands of homes and vehicles sustained significant damage and vast areas of agricultural land were severely impacted.

July

– Flooding, Japan: Record-breaking rainfall triggered widespread flash flooding and landslides across southern Japan from July 3-15, killing at least 82 people and injuring 114. Flood damage was most severe on Kyushu Island. Total damage was estimated at $8.5 billion.

– Severe weather, U.S.: A severe weather outbreak July 10-12 in the Rockies, Midwest, Plains, and southeastern U.S did $1.3 billion in damage.

August

– Typhoon Hagupit, China: Typhoon Hagupit made landfall near Yueqing City of Zhejiang province in China on August 3 as a category 1 storm with 80 mph winds, causing widespread damage in eastern China. Hagupit also impacted Taipei in northern Taiwan where nearly 2,000 houses were damaged and one person was killed. Total damage in China and Taiwan was estimated at $1.5 billion, with a death toll of six.

– Hurricane Isaias, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas, eastern U.S.: Hurricane Isaias, after bringing damaging flooding to Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and the Bahamas, made landfall near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, on August 3 as a strengthening category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds. Isaias brought widespread wind and flood damage from the Carolinas into New England and spawned at least 39 confirmed tornadoes, including a deadly EF3 in North Carolina. At least 6.4 million homes and businesses lost power in the continental U.S., and another 400,000 lost power in Puerto Rico. Total economic losses in the continental U.S. were estimated at $4.8 billion, and 15 deaths were blamed on the storm. An additional $200 million in damage occurred in the Caribbean and Canada, with three deaths.

– Derecho, Midwest U.S.: A severe weather outbreak from August 8-12 in the U.S. Midwest featured a violent derecho that caused severe damage in Iowa and Illinois, killing four and causing $12.6 billion in damage, making it the costliest severe weather outbreak in world history. The previous record was $12 billion (2020 dollars) from the April 2011 Super Outbreak in the U.S. The 2020 derecho, which had a peak wind gust of 140 mph, was responsible for $11 billion in damage alone.

– Hurricane Hanna, Texas (U.S.): Hurricane Hanna made landfall on July 25 in southern Texas as a high-end category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds, causing $1 billion in damage but no deaths.

– Hurricane Laura, Louisiana (U.S.) and Caribbean: Hurricane Laura made landfall as a category 4 storm with 150 mph winds in southwestern Louisiana on August 27, killing 33 people and causing $18 billion in damage. Catastrophic impacts occurred in Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes – including the City of Lake Charles – due to wind gusts over 100 mph, storm surge, and inland flooding. In the Caribbean, Laura killed 35 and caused $170 million in damage.

September

– Typhoon Maysak, Korea: After peaking as a category 4 storm with 145 mph winds, Typhoon Maysak made landfall in South Korea on September 2 as one of only five category 2 or stronger typhoons on record (since 1945) to hit the nation. Maysak killed 32 people and caused $1 billion in damage, and was the second of three typhoons to hit the Korean Peninsula within two weeks, the others being Bavi and Haishen.

– Typhoon Haishen, Korea and Japan: After peaking as a high-end category 4 storm with 155 mph winds, Typhoon Haishen made landfall in South Korea on September 6 as one of only five category 2 or stronger typhoons on record (since 1945) to hit the nation. Haishen killed four and caused $4 billion in damage. Haishen was the third of three typhoons to hit the Korean Peninsula within two weeks, the others being Bavi and Maysak.

– Hurricane Sally, Alabama and Florida (U.S.): Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama, on September 16 as a category 2 storm with 105 mph winds. Moving at less than 5 mph at landfall, Sally lingered over the Southeast for multiple days, dumping 10 to 20 inches of rain, with isolated amounts up to 30 inches, in southern Alabama and in the Florida panhandle. Sally killed eight people and caused $7 billion in damage.

October

– Flooding, France and Italy: In the wake of powerful Windstorm Alex, an extremely intense rain event known as a Mediterranean episode hit France and Italy on October 2-4. At least 16 people were killed, and damage was estimated at $3.2 billion. Alex brought the wettest day for UK-wide rainfall on record on October 3, when the nation had an average of 31.7 mm (1.24 inches) of rain. The previous record wettest day was August 29, 1986. UK-wide rainfall records extend back to 1891.

– Hurricane Delta, southern U.S.: Hurricane Delta made landfall on October 9 in southwestern Louisiana as a category 2 storm with 100 mph winds, bringing a storm surge of nine feet and rains of up to 17 inches to Louisiana. Despite hitting one of the least populated areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast, Delta did $3 billion in damage, killed four people, and knocked out power to at least 850,000 customers.

– Flooding, India: Heavy rains due to an unusually extended monsoon season, combined with rains from multiple low-pressure systems, severely affected the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Maharashtra October 1-26, killing 152 people and causing $4 billion in damage. This toll was in addition to the 1,922 people that died and the $7.5 billion in damage that occurred during the regular June-through-September monsoon season.

– Hurricane Zeta, southeastern U.S.: Hurricane Zeta made landfall on October 28 in southeastern Louisiana as a high-end category 2 storm with 110 mph winds. Zeta was the strongest hurricane to make a U.S. landfall so late in the year since an October 31, 1899, hurricane (also a category 2 storm with 110 mph winds) hit Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Zeta is being blamed for six deaths and $3.5 billion in damages; the storm knocked out power to 2.6 million customers.

– Severe weather, Australia: A severe weather outbreak on October 31 caused $1.2 billion in damage.

November

– Hurricane Eta, Central America and southeastern U.S.: The deadliest tropical cyclone worldwide in 2020 was Hurricane Eta, which made landfall in northern Nicaragua on November 3 as a category 4 storm with 140 mph winds. Moving very slowly at landfall, Eta lingered for three days over Central America and the adjacent waters, dropping catastrophic amounts of rainfall in excess of 20 inches in some regions. Flooding from Eta’s rains killed 309, making it the fourth-deadliest Atlantic hurricane to occur in November or December, according to statistics from NHC. Eta caused $6.8 billion in damage in Central America.

Eta went on to make three additional landfalls as a tropical storm in Cuba, the Florida Keys, and western Florida, killing 11 and causing $1.5 billion in damage in the U.S.

– Hurricane Iota, Central America: Just two weeks after Hurricane Eta’s devastating impact in Central America came Hurricane Iota, which peaked as a category 5 storm with 160 mph winds on December 16, making it the latest category 5 hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic. Iota made landfall as a category 4 storm with 155 mph winds in Nicaragua, just 15 miles from where Eta had hit. Iota brought torrential rains that inundated flooded regions still struggling to recover from Eta, killing 102 people and causing $1.3 billion in damage.

– Super Typhoon Goni, Philippines: Super Typhoon Goni made landfall 30 miles northeast of Legazpi in the Philippines on November 1 with 195 mph winds, making it Earth’s strongest landfalling tropical cyclone ever recorded. Goni killed 31 people, damaged or destroyed 250,000 homes, and caused $1 billion in damage.

Based on statistics from EM-DAT, the international disaster database, Goni tied with Typhoon Bopha in 2012 and Typhoon Vamco in 2020 as the Philippines’ second most expensive typhoon on record, adjusted for inflation. Only Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 ($11.1 billion) was more damaging.

– Typhoon Vamco, Philippines and Vietnam: Typhoon Vamco made landfall in the Philippines on November 11 as a category 2 storm with 110 mph winds, passing just north of the capital of Manila on November 12 as a category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Vamco killed 102 people in the Philippines, damaged or destroyed 190,000 homes, and caused $1 billion in damage. After hitting the Philippines, Vamco made landfall in Vietnam, where it killed one person and damaged or destroyed 10,000 homes.

Multi-month monsoon flooding disasters

– Summer monsoon flooding in China: The seasonal Mei-yu rains in China’s Yangtze Valley from June 1-September 30 caused extreme flooding that killed 280 and caused $35 billion in damage. According to statistics from EM-DAT, the international disaster database, that total ranks as the third-most expensive non-U.S. weather disaster since accurate records began in 1990, behind 1998 flooding in China ($48 billion 2020 dollars) and 2011 flooding in Thailand ($47 billion 2020 dollars).

In a September 2020 study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “Each 0.5°C of Warming Increases Annual Flood Losses in China by More than US$60 Billion,” researchers found that annual average flood losses in China during the period 1984-2018 were $19.2 billion (2015 dollars), which was 0.5% of China’s GDP. Annual flood losses increased to $25.3 billion annually during the period 2006-2018. The study authors predicted that each additional 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming will increase China flood losses by $60 billion per year.

– Summer monsoon flooding in India: Monsoon rainfall across India was 9% above average between June 1-September 30, according to the India Meteorological Department. The death toll from the 2020 monsoon floods was 1,922, with economic losses of $7.5 billion. The 2019 monsoon season produced 110% of average rainfall; together, 2019 and 2020 are India’s wettest two-year period since the 1950s.

– Summer monsoon flooding in Pakistan: The June 1-September 30 monsoon rains severely affected Pakistan, killing 410 and causing $1.5 billion in damage. The 410 deaths made this the second highest death toll of any weather disaster of 2020.

Figure 6
Figure 6. Damage on September 3, 2020, from the CZU Complex fire in California, the world’s eighth most expensive fire in history. (Image credit: San Mateo County Sheriff Office)

Multi-month wildfire disasters

– CZU Complex Fire, California (U.S.): California’s CZU Complex Fire on August 17-September 22 was sparked by lightning from the remains of Tropical Storm Fausto. The fire burned over 86,000 acres in the region just south of the San Francisco Bay area, killing one person and causing $3.5 billion in damage, making it the eighth most expensive wildfire in world history.

– LNU Complex Fire, California (U.S.): California’s LNU Complex Fire on August 17-September 16 was sparked by lightning from the remains of Tropical Storm Fausto. The fire burned over 363,000 acres in a region northeast of the San Francisco Bay area, killing five and causing $3 billion in damage. It was the fourth-largest fire in California history.

– North Complex Fire, California (U.S.): California’s North Complex Fire on August 18-October 5 was sparked by lightning from the remains of Tropical Storm Fausto. The fire burned over 318,000 acres in north-central California, killing 15 and causing $1.3 billion in damage. It was the sixth-largest fire in California history, and fifth-deadliest.

– Glass Fire, California (U.S.): California’s Glass Fire on September 27-October 5 burned over 67,000 acres in Napa and Sonoma counties, causing $3.8 billion in damage, making it the seventh most expensive wildfire in world history. The origin of the fire is unknown.

– Beachie Creek Fire, Oregon (U.S.): Oregon’s Beachie Creek Fire August 16-October 5 was sparked by lightning from the remains of Tropical Storm Fausto. The fire burned over 402,000 acres in northwestern Oregon, killing four and causing $1.7 billion in damage. It was the third-largest fire in Oregon history.

Multi-month drought disasters

– Drought, Brazil: Severe drought gripped significant portions of Brazil in 2020, causing a devastating fire season and heavy agricultural losses. The drought contributed to record wildfires in the Pantanal rainforest – the world’s largest tropical wetland. About a quarter of the Pantanal burned in 2020 (11 million acres), surpassing the previous record set in 2005.

Total damage from the Brazilian drought of 2020 was estimated at $3 billion. According to EM-DAT, the 2020 drought is the third most expensive drought in the nation’s history, behind droughts in 1978 and 2014.

– Drought, western U.S.: Drought conditions expanded dramatically over the western U.S. during the last half of 2020, thanks to the arrival of La Niña and record heat. By the end of 2020, 49% of the U.S. was in drought – the nation’s highest level of drought since 2013, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. U.S. drought damages in 2020 were estimated at $4.5 billion.

NOAA names 2020 second-hottest year on record; NASA says it tied for hottest ever

– Drought, China: Drought affected much of western and northern China in 2020, causing damages estimated at $2.4 billion.

Website visitors can comment on “Eye on the Storm” posts (see below). Please read our Comments Policy prior to posting. (See all EOTS posts here. Sign up to receive notices of new postings here.)

Topics: Weather Extremes
22 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
James Nichols
James Nichols
1 month ago

Hey the years 2045 and 2046 were nothing but struggles for the global population, filled with disasters upon disasters the human race could not quit, or they would be left for dead. The adventures of a couple, Jack Irving and Abigail Acheson, will spell the doom that lies ahead of the Awakening Dawn. My first novel has been published through Amazon, kindle and paperback. Check it out “The Awakening Dawn, the end has just begun!” simple to find, hurricane Wilma’s picture is on the cover!

Novel Advertisement TAD 1.1.jpg
Leigh
Leigh
1 month ago

Thanks for another excellent report. Your work is greatly appreciated.

J Doug Swallow
J Doug Swallow
1 month ago

 I would certainly hope that you are able to notice the year that these records were set.
South Dakota        Maximum Temperature        120°F        July 5, 1936            GANN VALLEY
South Dakota        Minimum Temperature        -58°F        February 17, 1936 MC INTOSH 
 
In Steele, North Dakota on July 6, 1936 the record HIGH Temperature for the state was 121⁰F.
In Parshall, N. Dakota on Feb. 15, 1936 the record LOW Temperature for the state was -60⁰ F.
 http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/scec/records

# of record high T for 110 years.png
Skyepony
1 month ago
Reply to  J Doug Swallow

What is your definition of climate change and how does ice loss and sea level rise reflect it? How does the temperature in one spot on one day dictate how the climate of the earth is doing?

J Doug Swallow
J Doug Swallow
1 month ago
Reply to  Skyepony

Skyepony says; “What is your definition of climate change and how does ice loss and sea level rise reflect it?” I lived in Alaska for 24 year and had my boat up into Glacier Bay on two separate occasions. It is for Skyepony to try to explain to me what climate change & CO₂ had to do with the loss of the ice in Glacier Bay.
In 1794, Glacier Bay was filled with one massive glacier.
Enter Glacier Bay and you cruise along shorelines completely covered by ice just 200 years ago. Explorer Capt. George Vancouver found Icy Strait choked with ice in 1794, and Glacier Bay was a barely indented glacier. That glacier was more than 4,000 feet thick, up to 20 miles or more wide, and extended more than 100 miles to the St. Elias Range of mountains. But by 1879 naturalist John Muir found that the ice had retreated 48 miles up the bay. By 1916 the Grand Pacific Glacier headed Tarr Inlet 65 miles from Glacier Bay’s mouth. Such rapid retreat is known nowhere else. Scientists have documented it, hoping to learn how glacial activity relates to climate changes.
In 1794, as the mother ship H.M.S. Discovery, Captained by George Vancouver, lay at anchor in Pt. Althorp, a survey crew under the command of Lt. Joseph Whidbey painstakingly maneuvered their longboats through the ice-choked waters of Icy Strait. https://www.nps.gov/glba/learn/historyculture/people.htm

J Doug Swallow
J Doug Swallow
1 month ago

One can rightfully wonder just how significant these global heat and cold records for 2020 are?
“Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 54.4°C (129.9°F) at Death Valley, U.S., August 16”. If the planet is burning up due to CO₂ like certain folks want us to believe; then why does this 107 year old temperature record still hold?
World Meteorological Organization Assessment of the Purported World Record 58°C Temperature Extreme at El Azizia, Libya (13 September 1922)
“On 13 September 1922, a temperature of 58°C (136.4°F) was purportedly recorded at El Azizia (approximately 40 kilometers south-southwest of Tripoli) in what is now modern-day Libya…………. The WMO assessment is that the highest recorded surface temperature of 56.7°C (134°F) was measured on 10 July 1913 at Greenland Ranch (Death Valley) CA USA.”
http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00093.1?af=R&

Skyepony
1 month ago
Reply to  J Doug Swallow

Fire behavior has reached a new plateau, poles are melting, many glaciers melted a while ago, seas are rising and you want to disprove all this with a few record temps from single spots on earth? A few places on earth doesn’t fit the description of the climate. It’s changing much faster at the poles than equator & the minimum highs are rising faster than the maximum highs. If you stand one barefoot on asphalt and concrete at the same time, that has been exposed to the same hot summer sun..one foot will want to move off there faster than the other, because different compounds hold a specific amount of heat and it varies depending on the compound. And we already know how much because they are easily measured and repeatable.. This is no different for a compound in gas form.

WxManWannaBe
WxManWannaBe
1 month ago

Thank You Dr for the excellent article/recap. One of the things that I have realized over the past several years, following you on WU and now here in terms of weather/climate/data that you regularly present, is that water is a huge enemy, every year, and that the annual Indian/Asian monsoon rains regularly kill hundreds to thousands of people every single year. You then juxtapose that number (lives lost annually), in many of these poorer less developed regions of the world, against “insurance” losses an monetary number (with a great majority of those money losses in the more developed US). Point being, that the biggest “disaster” are the annual lives lost from severe weather events, in any nation/region, but we end up monetizing these disasters because of the property/material/crop losses. At the end of the day, whether as to global lives lost, or monetary losses, we are subject to constant natural disasters living on the Planet; it comes with the terirtory unfortunately.

Retelska
1 month ago

You don’t consider the huge Australia fires that caused around 110 billion damage? https://www.accuweather.com/en/business/australia-wildfire-economic-damages-and-losses-to-reach-110-billion/657235

Diablo Flaco
Diablo Flaco
1 month ago

Am I the only one confused by seeing the reference data from Aon?

David Appell
1 month ago

I never see past or present climate disasters adjusted for inflation. Why not?

john
john
1 month ago

karma

OldTimer23
OldTimer23
1 month ago

When I go to disquis for WU, why are the comments showing from 6 months ago when I have it in “newest”.

Does anyone know how I can see the recent comments?

Emsi
Emsi
1 month ago
Reply to  OldTimer23

thats a diqus flaw.
post something like “help”, wait for a reply and then refresh.

sdotoole
sdotoole
1 month ago

Thank you, great article, and that’s an understantement. the amount of work that must go into a beautifully realized article like this.. wow thanks again

Gregorio O DeMojeca
Gregorio O DeMojeca
1 month ago

My wunderment is how the public SEEMINGLY subconsciously eats up the comment of certain politicos when they warn of how dangerous it is for OUR economy to “print” 1 Billion dollars to help fellow humans going through a mega crisis (covid relief). Yet are the same politicians that bend backwards for lobbyist groups/ blood money companies that will add BILLIONS per month to yearly disasters by continuing to feed aGW and spew more pollutants around our true home.

Last edited 1 month ago by Gregorio O DeMojeca
OldNewMex
OldNewMex
1 month ago

Thanks for this summary, Dr. Masters. If the list weren’t based solely on dollar estimate of damage, a runner-up would surely be the Creek Fire, which was active from Sept. 4 through Dec. 24. At 379,895 acres, it was the fourth largest fire in California history, and the largest single (non-complex) fire in the state’s history.

Stevettocs
Stevettocs
1 month ago

It is incredible that deaths were so low.

OldNewMex
OldNewMex
1 month ago

On the List, no’s 37 and 46 both mention the North Complex fire, with differing costs and ending dates. ???

jiiski
jiiski
1 month ago

Thank you for the work of writing this excellent report, Dr. Masters. I’ve seen your yearly disaster summaries along with Bob Henson’s and others’ over the last few years, but this record-breaking year boggles the mind and saddens the heart.

Cameron D. Moyer
Cameron D. Moyer
1 month ago

Thank you for the well written and sobering message!