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The Frequency of Billion-Dollar Disasters in the U.S.

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frequency of expensive disasters in the u.s.

Frequency of Billion-Dollar Disasters in the U.S.

Wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have had devastating effects on people, towns, and nature, and the final cost is nowhere near tallied. They are the latest of many climate disasters in the U.S.—and data shows that their frequency has been increasing.

These graphics from Planet Anomaly use tracking data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to show the average number of days between billion-dollar weather disasters in the U.S. from 1980 to 2022.

Methodology

NOAA’s database examines billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in America. Total associated damages and costs for each event are adjusted for inflation using the 2023 Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Disasters are categorized as one of seven different types:

  • Drought: Prolonged dry spells resulting in water shortages and reduced soil moisture.
  • Flooding: Overflow of water inundating land usually due to intense rainfall or melting snow.
  • Tropical Cyclone: Intense rotating storm systems known as hurricanes.
  • Severe Storm: Includes windstorms and tornadoes, hail, lightning, and heavy precipitation.
  • Winter Storm: Heavy snow, freezing rain, and icy conditions impacting transportation and infrastructure.
  • Wildfire: Uncontrolled fires consuming vast areas of forests and vegetation.
  • Freezes: Sub-zero temperatures damaging crops and infrastructure, such as pipes or energy lines.

The average days between billion-dollar disasters are calculated from the start dates of adjacent events within a single year.

Days Between Billion-Dollar Disasters in the U.S. (1980‒2022)

Between 1980 and 2022, there were 155 total disasters in the U.S. that cost more than a billion dollars in damages when adjusted for inflation.

And when looking at the average number of days between these billion-dollar events within each year, we can see the decades becoming more and more costly:

YearAvg. Days Between Disasters
198060
1981113
198285
198366
198478
198548
1986104
1987N/A
1988N/A
198947
199074
199171
199244
199344
199454
199546
199673
1997111
199839
199964
200064
200130
200251
200334
200423
200547
200639
200735
200823
200933
201040
201116
201230
201330
201430
201536
201620
201713
201819
201918
202014
202118
202220

Back in the early 1980s, the average interval between these major disasters (within each year) was 75 days. Even more starkly, 1987 had no climate disasters that topped $1 billion in damages, while 1988 only had one.

Fast forward to 2022, and that average window has drastically reduced to a mere 20 days between billion-dollar disasters in the United States.

Breaking Down Billion-Dollar Disasters by Type

Of the 155 disasters tracked through 2022, the majority have been in the form of severe storms including tornadoes, windstorms, and thunderstorms.

charting breakdown of costly natural disasters in the u.s.

The worst severe storms include an outbreak of tornadoes in April 2011 across many central and southern states, with an estimated 343 tornadoes causing a total of $14 billion in CPI-adjusted damages. In August 2020, a powerful derecho—a widespread and intense windstorm characterized by straight-line winds—devastated millions of acres of crops across the Midwest and caused $13 billion in adjusted damages.

But the most expensive disasters so far have been hurricanes. Eight hurricanes top the inflation-adjusted damages charts, with Hurricane Katrina’s unprecedented devastation in 2005 leading with a staggering $194 billion.

Will the U.S. be prepared for more costly disasters going forward? And will climate change continue to accelerate the pace of weather disasters in the U.S. even more?

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Ranking the Top 15 Countries by Carbon Tax Revenue

This graphic highlights France and Canada as the global leaders when it comes to generating carbon tax revenue.

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A chart showing the top 15 countries by carbon tax revenue.

Top 15 Countries by Carbon Tax Revenue

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Carbon taxes are designed to discourage CO2 emissions by increasing the cost of carbon-intensive activities and incentivizing the adoption of cleaner energy alternatives.

In this graphic we list the top 15 countries by carbon tax revenue as of 2022. The data is from the World Bank’s State and Trends of Carbon Pricing Report, published in April 2023.

France and Canada Lead in Global Carbon Tax Revenue

In 2022, the top 15 countries generated approximately $30 billion in revenue from carbon taxes.

France and Canada lead in this regard, accounting for over half of the total amount. Both countries have implemented comprehensive carbon pricing systems that cover a wide range of sectors, including transportation and industry, and they have set relatively high carbon tax rates.

CountryGovernment revenue
in 2022 ($ billions)
🇫🇷 France$8.9
🇨🇦 Canada$7.8
🇸🇪 Sweden$2.3
🇳🇴 Norway$2.1
🇯🇵 Japan$1.8
🇫🇮 Finland$1.7
🇨🇭 Switzerland$1.6
🇬🇧 United Kingdom$0.9
🇮🇪 Ireland$0.7
🇩🇰 Denmark$0.5
🇵🇹 Portugal$0.5
🇦🇷 Argentina$0.3
🇲🇽 Mexico$0.2
🇸🇬 Singapore$0.1
🇿🇦 South Africa$0.1

In Canada, the total carbon tax revenue includes both national and provincial taxes.

While carbon pricing has been recognized internationally as one of the more efficient mechanisms for reducing CO2 emissions, research is divided over what the global average carbon price should be to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5–2°C by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels.

A recent study has shown that carbon pricing must be supported by other policy measures and innovations. According to a report from Queen’s University, there is no feasible carbon pricing scenario that is high enough to limit emissions sufficiently to achieve anything below 2.4°C warming on its own.

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