Hurricane Delta could be the USA’s record-breaking 17th weather disaster of 2020

With a nonstop onslaught of severe storms, wildfires and hurricanes, 2020 has been a calamitous year for weather in the USA.

In 2020, there have been 16 separate weather disasters across the nation that each caused at least $1 billion in damage, according to a report released this week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That ties a record set in 2011 and 2017.

It’s also a record sixth consecutive year with at least 10 separate billion-dollar disasters.

And we’re not done yet: If Hurricane Delta causes $1 billion or more in damage as it smashes into the Gulf Coast this weekend, 2020 will break the record for most “billion-dollar” weather disasters in a single year.

NOAA said 11 of the disasters were the result of severe storms such as tornado and thunderstorm outbreaks – which occurred across more than 30 states. The remaining five included the Western wildfires, a drought and three hurricanes (Isaias, Laura and Sally).

In total, 188 people died in these 16 weather disasters, NOAA said.

One of the worst disasters has been the wildfires that have wreaked havoc across California the past several weeks: Since mid-August, more than 4 million acres have burned across the state, breaking the statewide burn record set in 2018 by more than 2 million acres, NOAA said.

And overall, an incredible five of the top six largest wildfires on record in California (dating to 1932) burned between August and the end of September of this year.

In addition, the Atlantic hurricane season has continued at a record pace, with 25 named tropical storms and hurricanes. In September alone, 10 named storms formed: Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred, Alpha and Beta. For the first time since 1971, five named storms churned in the Atlantic Basin at the same time.

Drought also intensified nationwide: According to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report, over 44% of the contiguous U.S. was in a drought, up about 5 percentage points from the beginning of September and the USA’s highest percentage in more than seven years.

In recent weeks, drought conditions expanded or intensified across much of the Northeast and the western half of the contiguous U.S.

The number of billion-dollar weather disasters has climbed dramatically in recent years: From 1980 to 2013, the USA averaged about six separate big weather disasters a year, NOAA said. But the annual average for the most recent five years (2015–2019) is almost 14 events.

In all, the U.S. has seen 279 separate weather and climate disasters since 1980 in which the overall damage and costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of the 279 events is more than $1.825 trillion, according to NOAA.


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