Extreme Temperature Diary- December 5th , 2018/ Topic: Billion Dollar Disasters On The Rise…2018 Update

Wednesday December 5th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😊. 

Billion Dollar Disasters On The Rise… 2018 Update

Another direct way for measuring the ravages of severe weather related climate change is by counting the dollar costs, seeing if unfortunate tallies are rising over time. It would appear that there is a direct correlation between climate change costs and charts showing how much the global average temperature has risen above preindustrial conditions. The world is in for a lot more weather hurt as inevitably averages approach +1.5C above preindustrial conditions over the next couple of decades. Today I received an email from Climate Central notifying many recipients of their new statistics in association with the high cost of not doing much worldwide to reign in carbon pollution over the last century. Here are their findings:

Quoting Climate Central:

Floodwaters surged through Boston streets during a March Nor’easter. Nearly 19,000 structures were destroyed in the Camp Fire, which became California’s largest-ever wildfire just months after the previous record blaze. Hurricanes Florence and Michael flooded farms and flattened homes. It has been another year of devastating extreme weather events, and the number of these costly events is only rising with climate change.

NOAA NCEI reported 11 weather and climate disasters with over $1 billion in damages through September (they report quarterly). When the final 2018 numbers are released in January, Hurricane Michael will be added as the 12th and other events could exceed the billion-dollar threshold. November’s individual wildfires will not count separately; according to NOAA lead analyst Adam Smith, “our analysis treats U.S. billion-dollar wildfire and drought events as regional-scale, seasonal events, not as multiple isolated events. Therefore, this year’s Western wildfire analysis will again be treated as one event.” However, the cost of each fire will certainly be counted. Last year’s wildfires tripled the previous cost record, and this year’s total could eclipse the new record of $18 billion. 

Billion-dollar disasters are happening across the country, and climate change is often linked. By creating hot and dry conditions in the West, human-caused climate change has doubled the cumulative forest fire area burned since 1984. Warmer oceans are fueling the rapid intensification of hurricanes, while a warmer and wetter atmosphere intensifies their rainfall. (Note: next week’s Climate Matters will have more on this year’s rainfall extremes). A warmer atmosphere could also strengthen severe thunderstorms in the Plains and Midwest, although connections between wind shear and climate change are still being researched. 

These weather and climate disasters are becoming more frequent and more costly. According to NOAA’s 2017 report, the seven years with the most billion-dollar disasters have all come in the last decade. Of the total inflation-adjusted costs since 1980, over 25 percent have come since 2015, including the record $312.7 billion in 2017. 

Costs can be reduced with climate adaptation measures, such as restoring coastal marshes, increasing the flood-preparedness of homes, and treating stressed vegetation in wildfire-prone areas. But according to the recent National Climate Assessment, climate change is still outpacing our planning. To minimize our risks, we must reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible. 


For more information on how climate change relates to extreme weather, click here. Topics include: coastal floodingdrought, extreme heatheavy rain & floodingsevere weathersnow & icetropical weather, and wildfires


Data comes from NOAA NCEI: U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (1980 through October 9, 2018). The cost has been adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The methodology developed by NOAA NCEI, with input from economic experts and consultants to remove biases, can be found at https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/overview. Additional review of the methodology can be found in Smith and Katz, 2013.

Since global heat began to ramp up in earnest in 1980 here are the states with the most billion dollar disasters:

Here is Climate Central’s graphic of billion dollar disaster that occurred in 2017:

You may recognize a few: Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and the California Carr fire.

So here we are at the end of 2018 with global averages at about +1.1C above preindustrial conditions due to CO2 levels near 410 parts per million:

What will exact astronomical damage figures be for 2018 be once Michael and this year’s California fires get added to statistics? I’ll report those as soon as I’m informed. Looking at trends I fear that a reckoning will occur during the 2020s with society, as it usually does, reacting both badly and well to a new, stark reality. Let’s all look to the better angels of our nature to solve the climate crisis.  


Here is more weather and climate news from Wednesday:    

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity.)

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

The Climate Guy

2 thoughts on “Extreme Temperature Diary- December 5th , 2018/ Topic: Billion Dollar Disasters On The Rise…2018 Update

  1. Hello Climate Guy!

    I’m curios about a question that maybe you could help me that is tangential to your discussion above.

    I would assume that prices of “at risk” properties would fall, or would become uninsurable and hence ineligible for financing and the price would drop to zero, or close to it. (Which should decrease the number of billion dollar disasters!)

    What is the thinking about equity markets? At what point will stocks become valueless as they will have no future value??? I would expect that some day in the not to distant future for there to be a sort of “bank run”. Is there any serious thinking about this issue???

    (Of course, the loss of almost all economic actively will lead to sharp drop in emmisions!)

    • Hi Bentley,

      What you are describing is a dystopian future in which our civilization starts to collapse due to climate change. It’s my hope that in the next few decades the worst effects can be avoided as emissions drop. Until then there will be greater pressure on insurance companies as the number of billion dollar disasters rise. The market is very resilient, though.

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