Preliminary Info on 2012 U.S. Billion-Dollar Extreme Weather/Climate Events

Extreme Weather 2012 Image
Satellite Image of Sandy

This Suomi NPP satellite image shows Sandy along the mid-Atlantic coastline with its center about 125 miles southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Sandy was within several hours of landfall on the southern New Jersey coastline.

Today, NOAA released preliminary information on extreme weather and climate events in the U.S. for 2012 that are known to have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses. As of December 20, NOAA estimates that the nation experienced 11 such events, to include seven severe weather/tornado events, two tropical storm/hurricane events, and the yearlong drought and associated wildfires.

These eleven events combined are believed to have caused 349 deaths, with the most significant losses of life occurring during Sandy (131) and the summer-long heat wave and associated drought, which caused over 123 direct deaths (though an estimate of the excess mortality due to heat stress is still unknown).

The eleven events include:

  • Southeast/Ohio Valley Tornadoes — March 2–3 2012
  • Texas Tornadoes — April 2–3 2012
  • Great Plains Tornadoes — April 13–14 2012
  • Midwest/Ohio Valley Severe Weather — April 28–May 1 2012
  • Southern Plains/Midwest/Northeast Severe Weather — May 25–30 2012
  • Rockies/Southwest Severe Weather — June 6–12 2012
  • Plains/East/Northeast Severe Weather (“Derecho”) — June 29–July 2 2012
  • Hurricane Isaac — August 26–31 2012
  • Western Wildfires — Summer–Fall, 2012
  • Hurricane Sandy — October 29–31 2012
  • U.S. Drought/Heatwave — throughout 2012

Economic losses for two events, Sandy and the yearlong drought, are the big drivers this year in terms of costs and are still being calculated. It will take months to develop a final, reliable estimate for each. Given how big these events are likely to be, NOAA estimates 2012 will surpass 2011 (exceeding $60 billion, CPI-adjusted to 2012 dollars) in terms of aggregate costs for annual billion-dollar disasters, even with fewer number of billion-dollar disasters. The greatest annual loss to date was 2005 when Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Dennis struck Florida and the Gulf Coast states (costs exceeded $187 billion, CPI-adjusted to 2012 dollars).

Further information about each of these eleven events can be found at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events.

The impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark reminder of how deadly and destructive weather can be and how important it is to be prepared. Through NOAA's Weather-Ready Nation initiative, we are taking steps to lessen the impacts of extreme weather on our communities and our nation's economy. To learn more, visit http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/.