Extreme Weather and Climate Change

One of the most visible consequences of a warming world is an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. The National Climate Assessment finds that the number of heat waves, heavy downpours, and major hurricanes has increased in the United States, and the strength of these events has increased, too.

A measure of the economic impact of extreme weather is the increasing number of billion-dollar disasters, which is shown below. The map shows all types of weather disasters, some of which are known to be influenced by climate change (floods, tropical storms) and some for which a climate influence is uncertain (tornadoes).

Billion-Dollar Extreme Weather Events, 2000-2021

Click on any circle to learn about one of the billion-dollar weather events, or any state to learn about billion-dollar droughts, between January 2000 and June 2023. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. The Top 10 costliest events are listed at the bottom of this page, along with a description of major U.S. droughts since 2000.

NOAA calculates total, direct costs – both insured and uninsured – including physical damage to residential, commercial, and government buildings, material assets within buildings, public infrastructure, vehicles and boats, offshore energy platforms, and agricultural assets, as well as business interruption losses and disaster restoration and wildfire suppression costs. These estimates do not account for losses to natural capital, health care related costs, or values associated with loss of life.

Climate change is expected to worsen the frequency, intensity, and impacts of some types of extreme weather events. For example, sea level rise increases the impacts of coastal storms and warming can place more stress on water supplies during droughts.

That’s why many cities, state, and businesses are taking steps to prepare for more extreme weather.

Learn more about the links between climate change and:

Table 1: Top 10 U.S. Disasters by Cost Since 2000

Event and Date Cost in billions (2021 USD)
(unadjusted cost)
Fatalities Description
Hurricane Katrina
August 2005
1,833 Progressed from Cat.1 to Cat. 3, resulting in severe storm surge damage to the U.S. Gulf Coast, floods in New Orleans as well as  Ala., Fla., Ga., Ind., Ky., Miss., Ohio, Tenn.
Hurricane Harvey
August 2017
89 Cat. 4 hurricane near Rockport, Texas dropped more than 30 inches of rain on 6.9 million people and produced historic flooding across Houston and surrounding areas. More than 30,000 people displaced and 200,000 homes and businesses damaged or destroyed.
Hurricane Ian

September 2022

115.2 152 Cat. 4 Hurricane near Cayo Costa, Fla., with sustained winds of 150 mph.
Hurricane Maria
September 2017
2,981 Cat. 4 storm strengthened to Cat 5 after hitting St. Croix, then caused severe flooding and wind damage in southeast Puerto Rico. One of the deadliest storms to hit the United States, with significant indirect deaths in its aftermath.
Hurricane Sandy
October 2012
159 Caused 159 deaths as Cat. 1 storm hitting the N.J. coast, then merged with a developing Nor’easter, causing extensive flooding and wind damage across Conn., Del., Mass., Md., N.J., N.Y., R.I.
Hurricane Ida
August 2021
96 Cat.4 Hurricane near Port Fourchon, La. with max sustained winds of 150 mph caused heavy damage to energy infrastructure and widespread power outages across southern La. Remnants flooded a wide region from eastern Pa. to N.Y.
Hurricane Irma
September 2017
97 Cat.4 hurricane hit Cudjoe Key, Fla. after devastating the U.S. Virgin Islands— St John and St Thomas — as a Cat. 5. Max sustained winds of 185 mph destroyed 25% of buildings and damaged 65% in the Florida Keys.
Hurricane Andrew
August 1992
$58.6 61 Cat. 5 hurricane hit Fla. and later La. as a Cat. 3. High winds damaged or destroy over 125,000 homes and left at least 160,000 people temporarily homeless.
U.S. Drought/Heatwave
Summer 1998
$52.8 454 1988 drought across a large portion of the U.S. with very severe losses to agriculture and related industries. Combined direct and indirect deaths (i.e., excess mortality) due to heat stress estimated at 5,000.
Midwest Flooding
Summer 1993
$44.9 48 The costliest non-tropical, inland U.S. flood event on record. Severe, widespread flooding in central U.S. due to persistent heavy rain. Extensive damage to agriculture, infrastructure, homes, and businesses in many areas across several states.

Data source: NOAA, 2023. Descriptions edited for brevity.

Table 2: U.S. Drought Events Since 2000

Date Cost in billions (2021 USD)
(unadjusted cost)
Description States
2022 $22.9 Severe drought impacted many Western and Central states. Large reservoirs across the West including Lake Mead, Lake Powell, Lake Oroville, and Shasta Lake, among others continue to be depleted. Excess heat caused more than 100 deaths. Ariz., Calif., Colo., Ida., Mont., N.M., Nev., Ore., Utah, Wash., Wyo.
2021 $9.9
Drought conditions were persistent throughout 2021 across many Western states. A historic heat wave across the Pacific Northwest shattered high temperature records. Caused hundreds of direct and indirect fatalities across Oregon and Washington. Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Kan., Mont., N.D., Neb., Nev., N.M., Ore., S.D., Utah, Wash., Wyo.
2020 $5.3
Widespread, continuous drought and record heat affected more than a dozen Western and Central states for much of the summer, fall and into the winter Considerable crop and livestock impacts. Dried vegetation, contributing to the Western wildfire. Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho., Iowa, Kan., Neb., Nev., N.D., N.M., Okla., Ore., S.D., Texas, Utah, Wyo.
2018 $3.7
Drought conditions persisted in the Four Corners region of the Southwest, causing damage to crops. Ariz., Colo., Kan., Mo., N.M., Okla., Texas, Utah
2017 $3.2
Severe drought damaged crops, including wheat. Lack of feed forced ranchers to sell their cattle. Increased fire risk leading up to the 2017 wildfires. Mont., N.D., S.D.
2016 $4.4
In California, the 5-year drought destroyed over 100 million trees. Stressed water supplies in the Northeast and Southeast impacted agricultural production. Ala., Calif., Conn., Ga., Mass., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Pa., R.I., Tenn., Vt.
2015 $5.9
Drought conditions continued to affect California throughout 2015, heavily impacting the agricultural sector.. Ariz., Calif., Idaho, Mont., Nev., Ore., Utah, Wash.
2014 $5.1
California experienced the worst drought on record. Surrounding states and parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas continued to experience severe drought conditions. Ariz., Calif., Kan., Nev., N.M., Okla., Ore., Texas
2013 $13.8
Drought conditions slowly improved in Midwestern and Plains states but continued in western states. Heatwave caused 53 deaths. Ariz., Calif., Colo., Iowa, Idaho, Ill., Kan., Mich., Minn., Mo., N.D., Neb., N.M., Nev., Okla., Ore., S.D., Texas, Utah, Wash., Wis., Wyo.
2012 $40.5
Most extensive drought since the 1930s. Moderate to extreme drought conditions affected more than half the country. Widespread harvest failure in central states, Summer heat wave caused 123 deaths. Calif., Nev., Idaho, Mont., Wyo., Utah, Colo., Ariz., N.M., Texas, N.D., S.D., Neb., Kan., Okla., Ark., Mo., Iowa, Minn., Ill., Ind., Ga.
2011 $16.6
Drought and heat wave conditions persisted. The majority of range and pastures in Texas and Oklahoma were in “very poor” condition. Heat conditions caused to 95 deaths. Ariz., Kan., La., N.M., Okla., Texas
2009 $5.1
Drought conditions persisted across parts of the Southwest, Great Plains, and southern Texas, with Texas and California suffering the most agricultural losses. Ariz., Calif., Kan., N.M., Okla., Texas
2008 $10.2
Severe drought and heat caused agricultural losses in areas of the South and West. Record low lake levels also occurred in areas of the Southeast. Ala., Ark., Calif., Colo., Ga., Idaho, Ind., Kan., Ky., Md., Minn., Miss., Mont., N.C., N.D., N.J., N.M., Ohio, Okla., Ore., S.C., Tenn., Texas, Utah, Va., Wash., Wis.
2007 $5.3
Severe drought with periods of extreme heat resulted in major crop yield loss, reduced stream flows and lake levels, and caused 15 deaths. Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Ill., Ind., Iowa, Kan., Ky., La., Mich., Minn., Miss., Mo., N.C., N.D., N.Y., Neb., Ohio, Okla., Pa., S.C., S.D., Tenn., Texas, Va., Wis., W.Va.
2006 9.2
Severe drought affected crops, caused wildfires and low streams and rivers in the Great Plains and portions of the South and far West. Ala., Ark., Colo., Fla., Ga., Iowa, Kan., La., Minn., Miss., Mo., Mont., N.D., N.M., Neb., Okla., S.D., Texas, Wyo.
2005 $2.4
Severe localized drought caused significant crop losses, especially for corn and soybeans. Ark., Ill., Ind., Mo., Ohio, Wis.
2003 $8.4
Drought across western and central portions of the United States with losses to agriculture. Thirty-five deaths were caused by the heatwave. Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Ill., Iowa, Kan., Mich., Minn., Mo., Mont., N.D., N.D., N.M., Neb., Ore., S.D., Wash., Wis.
2002 $15.5
Large portions of 30 states experienced moderate to extreme drought conditions. Ala., Ariz., Calif., Colo., Conn., Del., Fla., Ga., Idaho, Iowa, Kan. La., Maine, Md., Mich., Miss., Mo., Mont., Neb., Nev., N.M., N.C., N.D., Ohio, Okla., Ore., Pa., R.I., S.C., S.D., Texas, Utah, Va., Wyo.
2000 $9.0
Severe drought and persistent heat over south-central and southeastern states caused significant losses to agriculture and related industries. The heat caused 140 deaths. Ala., Ariz., Ark., Calif., Colo., Fla., Ga., Iowa, Kan., La., Miss., Mont., Neb., N.M., Okla., Ore. S.C., Tenn., Texas

Data source: NOAA, 2023. Descriptions edited for brevity.