New government data released Monday revealed that the U.S. has already experienced more billion-dollar weather disasters in 2023 than in any other year since authorities started tracking such data 40-plus years ago.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tallied 23 weather events from January through August that cost at least $1 billion, topping the previous record of 22 set in all of 2020. The NOAA has been tracking these figures since 1980.
These events “caused 253 direct and indirect fatalities and produced more than $57.6 billion in damages,” the NOAA said in its report, noting that the number may rise as more events are taken into account.
“Other potential billion-dollar events from 2023 that are still under review include Tropical Storm Hilary that impacted southern California and the Southern/Midwestern drought,” the report added. Hilary marked the first-ever tropical storm warning issued in the region.
A cyclist tops a hill in San Antonio last month, when when temperatures continually hit triple digits.
Overall, the billion-dollar disasters include 18 severe storms, two floods, a tropical cyclone, a winter storm and the deadly wildfire event that struck Maui last month. A staggering 115 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the fire, and more than 100 others still remain unaccounted for.
Scientists warn that these types of weather events are becoming more frequent and more extreme as global temperatures rise because of humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels. This past July was the hottest month ever recorded, with an average of 62.51 degrees Fahrenheit for the month, according to European scientists. Researchers say there’s a very high chance that by the time the year is over, 2023 will rank as the hottest year on record.
Although 2023 has had a high number of billion-dollar weather disasters, it still lags far behind 2017 in total costs. That year, a deadly combination of successive hurricanes and a massive wildfire season in California led to $383 billion in damages.
The NOAA also released data about August temperatures Monday, ranking it as the ninth-hottest August in 129 years of record-keeping. However, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi “all sizzled through their hottest Augusts on record,” the agency said.