Alonzo Lewis rescues items from his mother’s home after it was destroyed by Hurricane Ida on August 30, 2021 in Laplace, Louisiana. Ida made landfall August 29 as a category 4 storm southwest of New Orleans.
Scott Olson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Disasters powered by climate change wreak havoc in so many ways, causing death and upending the lives of entire communities. They also come with an enormous price tag.

In 2021, there were 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate change disasters, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released Monday.

Those 20 disasters killed 688 people and cost $145 billion, with $75 billion of that coming from Hurricane Ida.

Global temperature rises are making extreme weather more extreme. In December, the temperature of the contiguous 48 states was the highest on record, and stood at 39.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 6.7 degrees above average, NOAA said.

For all of 2021, the average temperature of the contiguous 48 states was was 54.5 degrees Fahrenheit, the fourth hottest year in NOAA’s 127 years of records.

The six hottest years on record have all happened since 2012, NOAA said.

The billion-dollar disasters in 2021 included:

  • A winter storm/cold wave event in the Deep South and Texas
  • One wildfire event which spread across Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington
  • One drought and heat wave event throughout the summer and fall across the western U.S.
  • Two flood events in California and Louisiana.
  • Three tornado outbreaks, including an unusual outbreak in December (tornado season typically runs in the spring and summer)
  • Four tropical cyclones: Elsa, Fred, Ida and Nicholas.
  • Eight other severe weather events (across many parts of the country). 

By way of comparison, there were 22 billion-dollar weather and climate change disasters in 2020, and the total damage done by those 22 events was $102 billion.

In the last five years, from 2017 through 2021, the total cost of these billion-dollar disasters has been $742 billion, according to NOAA. That’s an average of $148 billion a year.

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