Tag Archive for: tropical cyclones

Tropical Cyclones Costliest Type of Weather-Related Disaster By Far

Since 1980, tropical cyclones have been the costliest type of weather-related disaster in the United States, according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The NCEI study includes events that caused at least one billion dollars in damages when adjusted for inflation.

Accounting for just under a fifth (17.6%) of the total number of events, tropical cyclones have caused more than half (53.8%) of the total damages.

Tropical cyclones also cause more deaths than any other type of weather-related disaster.

Types of Events Compared

NCEI monitors the following types of disasters:

  • Hurricanes
  • Drought
  • Inland floods
  • Severe local storms
  • Wildfires
  • Crop freeze events
  • Winter storms

Damages Quantified

Since 1980, the U.S. has sustained at least 341 billion-dollar, weather disasters (including Consumer Price Index adjustment to 2022). The total cost of these 341 events exceeds $2.4 trillion.

Out of that total, tropical cyclones have caused a combined $1.3 trillion in total damages—with an average of $22.2 billion per event. They leave droughts in the dust. Droughts are the second costliest.

Rank ordered based on average cost per event, they line up like this:

  • Tropical Cyclones – $22.2 billion
  • Drought – $10.9 billion
  • Wildfires – $6.3 billion
  • Flooding – $4.8 billion
  • Winter storms – $4.3 billion
  • Freezes – $3.9 billion
  • Severe storms – $2.4 billion

The table below contains additional information about the frequency of billion dollar events, their total costs, and the number of deaths they cause.

NCEI Billion-Dollar Storm Statistics

No Region Immune

All parts of the county experience weather-related disasters. The dominant types of disasters vary by region. For instance winter storms are more costly in the north, droughts in the plains, and tropical cyclones along seaboards.

Cost of Disasters Increasing

Both the number and cost of billion-dollar weather-related disasters are increasing over time. Here’s the breakdown by year.

NCEI Billion Dollar Time Series 1980 through Jan. 2023

Reasons Cited for Increases

Exercise caution when interpreting the upward slope of the graph above. It would be easy to attribute the slope solely to climate change and many people will,

But NCEI points out that increases in population, and material wealth over the last several decades are an important factor for higher damages. So are the locations of population concentrations and failure to adopt better building codes.

“These trends are further complicated by the fact that many population centers and infrastructure exist in vulnerable areas like coasts and river floodplains, while building codes are often insufficient in reducing damage from extreme events,” says NCEI.

Data Sources

In calculating the cost assessments, we receive input from a variety of public and private data sources including:

  • Insurance Services Office
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • National Interagency Fire Center
  • Energy Information Administration
  • U.S. Army Corps
  • State agencies
  • Other partners

Costs Include…

Each of these data sources provides key pieces of information that capture the total, direct costs—both insured and uninsured—of weather and climate events. These costs include:

  • Physical damage to residential, commercial, and government or municipal buildings
  • Material assets within a building
  • Time element losses like business interruption
  • Vehicles and boats
  • Offshore energy platforms, electrical infrastructure, military bases
  • Public infrastructure like roads, bridges, levees, buildings
  • Agricultural assets like crops, livestock, and timber
  • Disaster restoration and wildfire suppression costs

One of the key transformations is scaling up insured loss data to account for uninsured and underinsured losses, which differs by peril, geography, and asset class.

Costs Do Not Include…

However, these loss assessments do not take into account losses to natural capital or assets, health-care-related losses, or values associated with loss of life. Therefore, consider NCEI estimates conservative with respect to what is truly lost, but cannot be completely measured.

Posted by Bob Rehak based on Information from NCEI

2034 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Tropical Cyclones Act as Heat Pumps that Fuel Extreme Heat

While tropical cyclones are universally recognized for their destructive strength, new research led by a University-of-Arizona team published in Geophysical Research Letters, suggests another previously unrecognized danger: heat buildups after the storms.

The heat may plague residents trying to recover from storms after power has been knocked out. In addition to wind damage, storm surge and flooding, the heat represents a public health hazard. The researchers argue that preparedness information should warn the public about that heat risk.

About the Research

The researchers analyzed 53 tropical storms and hurricanes in the eastern Caribbean between 1991 and 2020. They also analyzed weather after storms passed the main cities in 14 Caribbean islands. In EVERY case, high-temperature anomalies followed passage of the storms – with values as high as 5°C (9 Fahrenheit).

The research team included: Zack GuidoTeddy Allen (Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology), Simon Mason (Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society), and Pablo Méndez-Lázaro (University of Puerto Rico). A summary of the research also appeared in Phys.org under the byline of Mikayla Mace Kelley.

“The research team analyzed 53 tropical cyclones in the eastern Caribbean between 1991 and 2020, and 205 interactions between the cyclones and 14 Caribbean cities. They found that the cities’ heat index values were always warmer than average after the storm,” says Kelley.

Guido, the lead researcher, added, “Everyone’s focus is on the destructive power of tropical storms and hurricanes — the storm surge, winds, flooding — and that’s obviously quite substantial, but our focus is on the combined hazard of storm and subsequent heat.”

The results also show maximum temperatures can occur several days after the storm’s passage, and can be observed in locations that are not directly impacted by the storm. The results suggest tropical cyclone preparedness should include informing the public about heat risk.

Giant Heat Pumps

Guido added, “Hurricanes are massive heat pumps, redistributing heat for a large spatial distance around the center of the storm, and they leave massive destruction in their wake that can knock out the energy grid. That combination is often dangerous because it slows recovery and poses risks to human health.”

Continental Locations?

I’m curious about whether the results apply to continental locations or if there is something intrinsically unique about island weather. I’ve contacted several meteorologists including the lead author to see if results can be extrapolated to the Gulf Coast. We certainly get our share of hurricanes. More when I hear back.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/10/22

1899 Days since Hurricane Harvey