There are a finite number of names we can use for hurricanes:
This year, for Atlantic storms, Elsa was #5. If the number rises to 21, we can expect the alphabet to unfold from Fred to Wanda. No names though will start with Q, U, X, Y, or Z because they are too uncommon:
Hurricane, tropical, and subtropical storm names come from six rosters, each with 21 names that rotate year by year. (2021’s names will repeat in 2027.) The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) chose 21 because the group that originated the system did not think they would need anymore.
But they did.
In 2005, there were 27 named storms, during 2010, 21, and for 2020, a record breaking 30, With no names left last year, they used Greek alphabet letters that included Zeta, Eta, and Theta (and confused everyone). Better prepared now, the WMO has a supplemental list that starts with Adria and Braylen.
Meanwhile, if you are an Arlene, your name is among the most popular for stormy weather events:
Weather and Climate Disaster Costs
In a 2021 update, NOAA looked at the weather and climate disasters whose cost exceeded $1 billion. So far there have been eight:
The cost list is topped by 2017:
However, if we look at the number of billion dollar weather and climate events, 2020 is #1:
And you can see when they occurred:
Our Bottom Line: Opportunity Cost
Usually at econlife, I’ve considered the GDP impact of disasters. Instead, today, let’s focus on storm preparation and opportunity cost. Defined as the next best alternative, the opportunity cost of a decision is what you might have selected. Thinking of storm preparation, (anecdotally) our record is not great although it is logical. If we cannot confirm that a storm will devastate a region, then the dollars spent on preparation were better spent elsewhere when the decision was made.
Now though, the storm trend is upward. Whereas the annual average number of billion dollar storms was 7.1 between 1980 and 2020, from 2016 to 2020 it was an alarming 16.2:
So, we can conclude by returning to our title, to opportunity cost, and suggest that we should elevate our worry about the weather.
My sources and more: Good for weather and climate disaster information, NOAA had the up-to-date facts, including costs and names. Next, the WSJ Numbers Lady was a handy place to get 2021 hurricane names as was NPR. But if you want even more, do return to this 2019 econlife post. And finally for all you could ever want to know about weather and climate disaster cost and frequency, this blog is amazing.
Our featured satellite image of Hurricane Elsa is from NOAA/Reuters via WSJ.