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Eight Billion Dollar Disasters in the First Half of 2021

15 Jul 2021, 1:00 am

[Written from NOAA and NOAA NCEI]  The first six months of 2021 brought eight billion-dollar weather disasters, ranging from destructive severe weather to a historic deep freeze, according to experts from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Below are more highlights from NOAA’s U.S. climate report:

Billion-dollar disasters to date

The U.S. experienced eight weather and climate disasters in the first six months of 2021, each with losses exceeding $1 billion. They were:

  • two flood events focused in California (January 24-29) and Louisiana (May 14-19);
  • the historic mid-February winter storm and cold wave with impacts focused in Texas;
  • two severe storm events in late-March (24-25 and 27-28) across many southeastern and eastern states, respectively;
  • two severe storm events focused across Texas and Oklahoma in mid-to-late April (12-15 and 27-28);
  • the expanding Western drought and heatwave that has amplified throughout 2021.

The costliest event so far was the February 10-19 winter storm and cold wave that incurred direct losses of approximately $20 billion. This is now the most costly U.S. winter storm event on record surpassing (nearly doubling the inflation-adjusted cost of) Superstorm 1993.

The next costliest was the severe weather outbreak of April 27-28 in Texas and Oklahoma that caused $2.4 billion in damages.

The 2021 YTD inflation-adjusted losses from all eight disasters were also at a near-record high for the first six months and came in at nearly $30 billion – only behind 2011.

The U.S. has experienced 298 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2021). The total cost of these 298 events exceeds $1.975 trillion.

In addition to significant economic impacts, the eight events identified during the first half of 2021 resulted in at least 331 fatalities.

Year to date (YTD) I January through June 2021

The year-to-date average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 49.3 degrees F, (1.7 degrees above the 20th-century average) and placed in the warmest third of the record. Maine saw its third-warmest YTD, and both California and New Hampshire had their fifth warmest.

  • January-June temperatures were above average across the vast majority of the West, northern Plains, Great Lakes, Northeast, mid-Atlantic and parts of the Southeast.
  • Temperatures were below average across much of the southern Plains.
  • The Alaska statewide average temperature for the year-to-date period was 22.6°F, 1.3°F above average, and ranked in the middle third of the record. Above-average temperatures were present across the Aleutians and Bristol Bay regions with near-average temperatures dominating the rest of the state.

The precipitation total was 14.64 inches, 0.67 of an inch below average, which ranked in the driest-third YTD on record. Nine states across the interior West, northern Plains and New England logged a top-10 driest January-June periods on record.

  • Precipitation was above average from the central and southern Plains to the Midwest and from the Deep South to the Southeast. Louisiana ranked eighth wettest on record for this year-to-date period.
  • Precipitation was below average across much of the West, northern Plains, Great Lakes, Northeast and Florida.
  • For Alaska as a whole, precipitation was above average during the first half of 2021. In the Panhandle, Juneau ranked second wettest on record for this period.

Edited for WeatherNation by Mace Michaels