US suffered 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2022

The United States experienced 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2022 – the latest battering in consecutive years of wall-to-wall catastrophes.

The absymal tally was noted in a new report by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday, and put 2022 in joint third place with 2011 and 2017 for the greatest number of disasters. Only 2021, with 20 billion-dollar disasters, and 2020, with 22 disasters, topped it.

This year’s disasters, including last month’s massive bomb cyclone, Hurricane Ian and two tornado outbreaks, resulted in the deaths of at least 474 people.

Total damages from the 18 events were approximately $165bn, which also made 2022 the third costliest year on record for weather and climate disasters.

The climate crisis is driving a worsening spiral of extreme weather in the United States from wildfires and hurricanes to heatwaves and extreme precipitation events, like the wave of atmospheric rivers that have battered California in recent weeks.

The most costly event of 2022 was Hurricane Ian at $112.9bn. The near-Category 5 storm, which smacked into southwest Florida in September, caused more than 100 deaths, reduced some coastal towns to rubble and left thousands of people homeless.

Mean temperature departures from average across the US in 2022 (nclimgrid)
Mean temperature departures from average across the US in 2022 (nclimgrid)

Over the last seven years, 122 separate billion-dollar disasters have killed at least 5,000 people, with a total cost of more than $1 trillion in damages, NOAA reported. Each of the last six years, apart from 2019, saw disasters totalling at least $100bn.

The new report also revealed the extreme level of drought across the US in the last 12 months. More than 40 per cent of the country, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, was in a state of drought for the last 119 weeks, a record in the 22-year history of the US Drought Monitor. It also far outstripped the previous record of 68 consecutive weeks, set in 2012.

The drought was particularly severe in the western half of the country which spent the majority of the year with many reservoirs plunging to record or near-record low levels.

Temperatures were above average across the country from the west coast to the Gulf of Mexico and from Florida to New England and into the Great Lakes, NOAA said.