Updated Oct 12, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Hurricane Ian brings billion-dollar disasters this year well above average

U.S. cumulative billion-dollar climate and weather disasters, by year
Data: Climate Central, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information; Note: Includes damages that equal or exceed $1 billion (adjusted for 2022 inflation). Average is from 1980-2022; Chart: Axios Visuals

Hurricanes Fiona and Ian were the latest in a torrent of 15 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters to strike the U.S. so far this year, according to new NOAA data.

The big picture: The cost and frequency of extreme weather and climate disasters have increased in recent years.

  • According to Climate Central, a research and communications nonprofit, the frequency of billion-dollar weather disasters is now about one event every 18 days.
  • This compares to 82 days between such disasters in the 1980s, Climate Central found.
  • The list of 2022 billion-dollar disasters includes a derecho, or long-lived severe thunderstorm complex producing damaging winds, that swept across the Midwest. A tornado outbreak in April in Georgia and South Carolina also made the cut.
  • Typically, hurricanes are the costliest type of weather and climate-related disasters, followed by droughts.

Zoom in: Early estimates from Hurricane Ian damage surveys indicate it was one of the costliest storms in U.S. history, with insured losses of $53 billion to $74 billion.

  • After the two hurricanes and the wildfires are included, the 2022 disaster toll through the end of September will likely exceed $100 billion.

Between the lines: NOAA data shows that each decade since the 1980s has experienced more billion-dollar disasters and higher costs than the decade before.  

  • Much of the increase in damage costs is related to population growth in vulnerable areas, such as the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast. This gives storms, many of which are worsened by climate change, a bigger bullseye to target.

Go deeper: Read the NOAA report

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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