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NOAA reports 2021 was second-worst year for number of climate disasters

Fire burns near a forested highway under a smoky orange sky, with a helicopter dropping water in the distance.
Pacific Northwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service, via Twitter
Western wildfires were among the climate disasters that topped over 1 billion dollars last year.

Last year was the second-worst on record for weather and climate disasters, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA tracks climate events that incurred more than 1 billion dollars in damage. Last year, twenty of these events occurred, including the Western drought and heat wave, flooding in California, and widespread wildfires. The Midwest tornado outbreak and Texas hail storms also made the list. Nearly 700 people died and the total cost was 145 billion dollars. That makes 2021 the second-worst year on record by number, and the third-worst by cost.

NOAA reports that climate disasters have been increasing in the United States because more people live in vulnerable areas and because of global climate change. In the 1980s, the U.S. averaged just three billon-dollar disasters per year. In the last five years, that average has jumped to seventeen.


Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.