Seems like there were a lot of disasters this year don’t you think? Well, just in terms of weather, 2011 has made it into the record books. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that during this year, there have been 12 different weather disasters that cost more than $1 billion. The previous record was nine in 2008.

Joplin Articlelarge V2
That’s more billion-dollar catastrophes in one year than the U.S. saw in the entire decade of the 1980s, even if you factor in inflation. (The image is Joplin, MO after the devastating tornado May 22, 2011)
  • These 12 disasters alone resulted in 646 deaths.
  • The National Weather Service reporting over 1,000 deaths across all weather categories for the year.
  • NOAA had originally counted 10 disasters, but that estimate went up after the wildfires in Texas and New Mexico exceeded $1 billion in damage. Also, NOAA just added the June 18-22 Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather event, which just recently exceeded the $1 billion threshold.


Here’s a historical graph from NOAA:

Billion Dollar Graph Nov 2011 Custom
Notice the TALL, GREEN bar on the far right, that is!

This year’s total may not stop at 12. Officials are still adding up the damage from the Tropical Storm Lee and the pre-Halloween Northeast snowstorm, and so far each is at $750 million. And there’s still nearly a month left in the year.

Scientists blame an unlucky combination of climate change and freak chance. They say even with the long-predicted increase in weather extremes triggered by climate change, 2011 in the U.S. was wilder than they predicted. For example, the six large outbreaks of twisters can’t be attributed to global warming, scientists say.