Coastwide
via NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2021)

USA - The Worst Climate Disasters in US History

One impact of climate change is that the number and severity of climate-related disasters is on the rise.

With the warming of the planet, several factors combine to make extreme weather more common. Higher temperatures are more likely to produce heat waves and drought conditions, which increases the likelihood of wildfires. Warmer air can hold more water vapor, which leads to wetter storms, and with them, more flooding. Increased heat and evaporation have also combined to make tropical cyclones more common and more severe in recent years.

The financial consequences of these trends are enormous. Loss of life, property damage, infrastructure failures, and business interruptions are some of the widely-felt direct consequences when more intense natural disasters occur. In the U.S., the costs associated with so-called billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events—those in which total damages exceeded $1 billion in today’s dollars—have grown sharply over the last decade, from a five-year annual average of $29.2 billion in 2010 to $121.4 billion in 2020.

Apart from direct damages, even the threat of weather disasters can have financial impacts. Property values in vulnerable areas may shift downward as severe weather disasters become more likely. Insurers can charge higher rates or make coverage harder to obtain for properties that could be at risk.And property owners may find themselves paying a premium for structures that are resistant to weather-related damage. For example, due to increasing numbers of wildfires in California, building codes in fire prone areas now require the use of certain fire-resistant materials, and fire insurance rates have risen to unaffordable levels for many homeowners.

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