With 21 named storms, 2021 was the third most active Atlantic hurricane season (yes, ever). According to the WMA (World Meteorological Association), hurricane lists include 21 letters because it’s tough to find easily recognizable names that start with a Q, U, X,Y, or Z. Instead, we revert to the Greek alphabet.
However, the record breaker was 2020. These are the numbers:
Now, with Hurricane Ian moving across Florida, let’s look back at billion dollar natural disasters.
Calculating Disaster Costs
In a recent update that covered the first 6 1/2 months (January-July 11) of 2022, NOAA looked at billion dollar weather and climate disasters. Totaling 9, they included a drought and “8 severe storm events”:
Although 2020’s hurricanes ran out of names, its costs were not in the top three:
The cost “scorekeeper” for the U.S. government is the National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI). When they figure out the cost of a disaster, they include items like the following:
If we were to rank storm costs, then hurricanes (aka tropical cyclones) are at the top of the list at an average of $21 billion per event and a total of $1,194 billion from 1980-2022 (as of July 11, 2022). Although each one is valued at far less, drought, severe storms, and inland flooding are near the top of the considerable damage list.
This was the NCEI summary:
Our Bottom Line: The Broken Window Fallacy
In “What is Seen, and What is Not Seen,” economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) reminds us of what we are not doing as we recover from a calamity. When a window is broken, the glazier gets employment and the GDP rises. However, we just wind up with the window we had once had.
So yes, we spend a lot to clean up after natural disasters. However, like the past, we will replace what would have been.
My sources and more: Good for weather information, NOAA had the up-to-date disaster facts and also cost calculation information while NPR told about the 2021 season. Then, this paper takes a brief contrarian look at how NOAA calculates losses. But, if you read just one extra article, do take a look at the first insured coral reef. Please note that we could consider this post an update since sections were in previous posts. Our featured image is from NOAA.