By the end of August, the United States had already broken the one-year record for the number of weather and climate disasters that caused more than $1 billion in damage.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through August there had already been 23 billion-dollar disasters. The previous record of 22 had been set in 2020. The 23 this year racked up $58 billion in damages.
The unfortunate litany of events included two in August: Hurricane Idalia, which struck Florida’s Big Bend region and the Lahaina fire storm on Maui. Earlier in the year, winter storms in the Northeast, floods in California and Vermont, and 18 other severe storm events contributed to the record.
With a very active Atlantic hurricane season underway and the prospects for more wildfires in the west, it is likely that the record for billion-dollar disasters will climb even higher before the year ends.
The massive financial losses incurred this year highlight the need for more funding and attention to be directed toward climate resistance and adaptation. The NOAA report urges policymakers to invest much more in getting out ahead of disasters before they strike rather than only looking for ways to help communities to pick up the pieces after disaster has struck.
Congress is currently considering $16 billion in additional funding for FEMA to keep the agency functioning in this very trying year.
As climate change continues to contribute to more intense storms and larger and more frequent wildfires, the price of adaptation and recovery efforts is likely to continue to grow.
Photo, posted August 31, 2023, courtesy of Spc. Christian Wilson / The National Guard via Flickr.