Earth's 39 Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters of 2018: 4th-Most on Record

January 23, 2019, 7:34 AM EST

Above: The costliest weather disaster of 2018 was Hurricane Michael, which made landfall on Florida's Panhandle as a top-end Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds on October 10, 2018, pushing a storm surge of 15+ feet to the coast. Michael killed 32 people and did damage of $17 billion. Here, we see a man walk through a beachfront neighborhood that was decimated by Michael’s storm surge. Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Earth was besieged by 39 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018, the fourth-highest inflation-adjusted number of billion-dollar weather events on record, said insurance broker Aon (formerly called Aon Benfield) in their annual report issued January 22. Only 2011, with 44 billion-dollar weather disasters, and 2010 and 2013, with 41 each, had more. The annual average of billion-dollar weather disasters is 25 since 1990 (see Figure 1 below).

The U.S. had the most billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018 of any country, with 16. That's their second highest total on record, behind the 20 billion-dollar weather disasters of 2017. NOAA has not yet released their final list of billion-dollar disasters for the U.S. in 2018, due to the government shutdown. China had seven billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018.

The combined economic losses (insured and uninsured) from all 394 weather and earthquake disasters catalogued by Aon in 2018 was $225 billion (2018 USD), which is 33% above the 1980 - 2017 inflation-adjusted average of $169 billion. The great bulk of the 2018 total came from weather-related disasters ($215 billion of the $225 billion).

Notable records

Seven billion-dollar droughts hit Earth in 2018, the highest number on record. The previous record was six, in 1999 and 2015.  Total damages from drought in 2018 were in excess of $27 billion, the highest total since 2013.

The most expensive wildfire in world history occurred in 2018: the Camp Fire, which devastated Paradise, California, killing 86 and causing $15 billion in damage. The previous costliest fire in world history was 2017's Wine Country fire in California, which killed 43 and did $13 billion in damage. The world's third costliest fire in history also occurred in 2018--the Woolsey fire in Malibu/Thousand Oaks, California, which did $5.8 billion in damage.

Disasters
Figure 1. The yearly number of billion-dollar (2018 USD) global weather disasters, adjusted for inflation, as compiled by insurance broker Aon Benfield in their Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Reports. The year 2018 had the fourth-highest number of billion-dollar global weather disasters on record for a year--thanks, in part, to an unusually persistent and extreme summertime jet stream pattern that brought extended periods of extreme weather to portions of the globe. The increasing trend in weather disaster losses in recent decades is largely due to increases in wealth and population and to people moving to more vulnerable areas, but climate change is likely to play an increasing role in coming decades. We discussed this topic in more detail in a 2012 post, Damage Losses and Climate Change.

Fatalities: Natural disasters (including earthquakes) killed approximately 10,300 people in 2018, substantially lower than the 2000-2018 average of about 64,600 fatalities per year. The deadliest weather disaster of 2018 was monsoon flooding in India that killed 1424 people during the summer June - August period, at a cost of $5.1 billion. The worst of the flooding occurred in southwest India’s Kerala state in August, leaving more than 500 people dead or missing.

Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurance firm, put global losses from natural disasters (insured plus uninsured) at $160 billion in 2018, above the 30-year average of $140 billion. The record loss years were 2011 (with losses of $350 billion, due mainly to the Tohoku earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand), and 2017, primarily due to the damages from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Insured losses in 2018 were $80 billion, significantly higher than the 30-year average of $41 billion, and ranking as the fourth-costliest year since 1980 for the insurance industry. About 36% of all disaster damage worldwide in 2018 was due to tropical cyclones, at a cost of $57 billion. Munich Re put global losses from Hurricane Michael at $16 billion, Hurricane Florence at $14 billion, and Typhoon Jebi (Japan and Taiwan) at $12.5 billion.

At least two nations see their costliest weather disasters in history

By comparing the Aon Benfield numbers to historical disaster costs at EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, we see that at least two nations set records for their all-time most expensive weather-related disaster in 2018, both of them related to a regional South American drought. For comparison, three nations had their most expensive weather-related natural disasters in history in 2017, four in 2016, and nine in 2015. Here are the nations that set records in 2018 for their most expensive weather-related disaster in history:

Argentina suffered $3.4 billion in damage (0.5% of GDP) from drought in 2018. Their previous most expensive disaster was a flood in 1985 that cost $3.1 billion (2018 dollars).

Uruguay suffered $500 million in damage (0.9% of GDP) from drought in 2018. Their previous most expensive disaster was a 1999 drought that cost $380 million (2018 dollars).

Aon’s tally of billion-dollar weather disasters globally for 2018

  1. Hurricane Michael, Southeast U.S., 10/10 – 10/12, $17 billion, 32 killed
  2. Hurricane Florence, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic U.S., 9/14 – 9/19, $15 billion, 53 killed
  3. Wildfire, California (U.S.) Camp Fire, 11/8 – 11/25, $15 billion, 86 killed
  4. Typhoon Jebi, Japan, 9/4 – 9/5, $13 billion, 17 killed
  5. Flooding, Japan, 7/5 – 7/8, $10 billion, 246 killed
  6. Drought, Northern and Central Europe, 5/1 – 8/31, $9 billion, 0 killed
  7. Typhoon Mangkhut, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, 9/15 – 9/18, $6 billion, 161 killed
  8. Wildfire, California (U.S.) Woolsey Fire, 11/8 – 11/21, $5.8 billion, 3 killed
  9. Flooding, North China, 7/1 – 9/30, $5.8 billion, 89 killed
  10. Tropical Storm Rumbia, 8/16 – 8/18, $5.4 billion, 53 killed
  11. Flooding, India, 8/7 – 8/20, $5.5 billion, 500 killed
  12. Severe Weather, Italy, 10/28 – 11/04, $5 billion, 29 killed
  13. Typhoon Trami, Japan, 9/28 – 10/2, $4.5 billion, 4 killed
  14. Drought, Argentina and Uruguay, 1/1 – 3/31, $3.9 billion, 0 killed
  15. Drought, India, 6/1 – 11/30, $3.65 billion, 0 killed
  16. Drought, China, 6/1 – 10/31, $3.55 billion, 0 killed
  17. Winter Weather, China, 4/2 – 4/18, $3.4 billion, 0 killed
  18. Drought, U.S., 1/1 – 12/31, $3.2 billion, 0 killed
  19. Winter Storm Friederike, Western & Central Europe, 1/18, $2.5 billion, 13 killed
  20. Severe Weather, Rockies, Plains, Midwest, Northeast U.S., 6/17 – 6/21, $2.3 billion, 3 killed
  21. Winter Storm Riley, Eastern U.S., 3/1 – 3/3, $2.3 billion, 9 killed
  22. Flooding, South China, Vietnam, 7/1 – 9/30, $2 billion, 38 killed
  23. Wildfire, California (U.S.) Carr Fire, 8/1 – 8/31, $1.8 billion, 8 killed
  24. Flooding, China, 5/5 – 7/31, $1.75 billion, 112 killed
  25. Winter Weather, Europe, 2/23 – 3/2, $1.6 billion, 88 killed
  26. Tropical Cyclone Mekunu, Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, 5/23 – 5/27, $1.5 billion, 31 killed
  27. Severe Weather, Plains, Southeast, Northeast U.S., 3/18 – 3/21, $1.5 billion, 0 killed
  28. Severe Weather, Rockies, Plains, Midwest, Northeast U.S., 5/12 – 5/16, $1.45 billion, 5 killed
  29. Severe Weather, 7/19 – 7/22, Plains, Midwest, Southeast U.S., $1.5 billion, 18 killed
  30. Winter Weather, China, 1/24 – 1/29, $1.45 billion, 2 killed
  31. Severe Weather, 4/28 – 5/5 Plains, Midwest U.S., $1.4 billion, 0 killed
  32. Severe Weather, Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Northeast U.S., 4/13 – 4/17, $1.4 billion, 6 killed
  33. Severe Weather, 6/3 – 6/7, Plains, Midwest, Southeast U.S., $1.3 billion, 0 killed
  34. Drought, South Africa, 1/1 – 5/31, $1.2 billion, 0 killed
  35. Winter Storm Grayson, Central & Eastern U.S., 1/3 – 1/5, $1.1 billion, 22 killed
  36. Winter Storm Eleanor, Western & Central Europe, 1/1 – 1/4, $1.1 billion, 7 killed
  37. Drought, Australia, 1/1 – 8/1, $1 billion, 0 killed
  38. Severe Weather, Rockies, Plains U.S., 8/6 – 8/8, $1 billion, 0 killed
  39. Tropical Cyclone Luban, Yemen, Oman, 10/14, $1 billion, 24 killed
Soil moisture

Multi-month Billion-Dollar Drought Disaster 1A severe lack of rainfall over southern South America during the summer of 2017 - 2018 led to the worst drought in decades over portions of Argentina and Uruguay. Total losses were $3.9 billion, making the drought the most expensive weather-related disaster in the history of both Argentina and Uruguay. Hardest-hit was Argentina, where the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange put losses at $3.4 billion. Above: Soil moisture maps produced with data collected on April 3, 2017 (left), and April 6, 2018 (right), by NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite. SMAP carries a radiometer that measures soil moisture in the top 5 centimeters (2 inches) of the ground. Dark green and blue areas are progressively wetter. Pronounced drying in 2018 compared to 2017 is apparent. Uruguay lies to the east of the map area. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Drought
Multi-month Billion-Dollar Drought Disaster 2Three years of unforgiving drought in South Africa led to $1.2 billion in damages in 2018 and endangered the municipal water supply of Cape Town. The only drought in South Africa's history that was more expensive occurred in 1991 ($1.9 billion, 2018 USD). Above: bare sand and dried tree trunks on May 10, 2017, at Theewaterskloof Dam, near Villiersdorp, about 40 miles east of Cape Town, South Africa. Significant winter rains fell in the Cape Town area beginning in late April 2018, helping to push the dam's water level above 30% by mid-June, and helping Cape Town avoid the feared “Day Zero”—the point when the reservoirs serving Cape Town would drop below the minimum levels needed to provide water safely. See our post from June 13 for more details. Image credit: Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images
Dead cow
Multi-month Billion-Dollar Drought Disaster 3Sparse rains and unusual warmth continued to affect eastern Australia in July, as severe drought conditions persisted. July 2018 was the driest July since 2002, at 51% below the 1961–1990 average. The hardest-hit state was New South Wales, where the Bureau of Meteorology noted that the drought was the state’s worst since 1965. Additional drought impacts occurred in Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia. Total damage was estimated at $1 billion. Above: Dead livestock litter the Jerry family farm 'Marlborough', 40 km outside Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia on June 20, 2018. Image credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images.
Multi-month Billion-Dollar Drought Disaster 4. A persistent and extreme kink in the jet stream brought an intense ridge of high pressure over much of Northern Europe during July, resulting in numerous all-time extreme heat records and the development of one of the region’s deepest droughts on record. Wildfires, particularly severe in Sweden, also developed. The most impacted countries included Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. Total losses across Europe were estimated at $9 billion, making it the sixth most expensive weather-related disaster of 2018. The heatwave and drought were made at least two to five times more likely at some locations by climate change, according to a preliminary analysis released by the World Weather Attribution network. Above: Sad, dried sunflowers in a field near Magdeburg, eastern Germany on July 26, 2018. Image credit: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images.
Drought map
Multi-month Billion-Dollar Drought Disaster 5. Widespread severe to exceptional drought gripped much of the Western U.S. in 2018, leading to at least $3.2 billion in losses, mostly to agriculture. Above: U.S. Drought Monitor for September 13, 2018. Image credit: NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC.
China drought
Multi-month Billion-Dollar Drought Disaster 6. Drought in China during the summer caused an estimated $3.55 billion in damage. Above: drought conditions in China for the summer of 2018. Image credit: USDA.
India drought
Multi-month Billion-Dollar Drought Disaster 7. Widespread severe to exceptional drought gripped much of the state of Karnataka in southwest India in the summer of 2018, leading to at least $3.65 billion in agricultural losses. Above: On June 6, 2018, Indian residents use hoses to fill jerry cans with water from a distribution truck which arrives daily, in the low-income eastern neighborhood of Sanjay camp in Delhi. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images).
Figure 1. Total snowfall from this week’s East Coast winter storm. Image credit: NOAA/NWS Eastern Region.
January BIllion-Dollar Disaster 1. One of the strongest and most rapidly intensifying midlatitude cyclones on record for the waters off the East Coast brought heavy snow, strong winds, and record coastal flooding to the Northeast U.S. on January 3 – 5. The “bomb” cyclone dubbed “Grayson” by The Weather Channel deepened a record 59 millibars in just 24 hours. Grayson killed at least 22 people, caused $1.1 billion in damage, and brought the highest storm surge ever recorded to Boston, MA and Bar Harbor, ME. Above: Total snowfall from Winter Storm Grayson. Image credit: NOAA/NWS Eastern Region.
Eleanor damage
January BIllion-Dollar Disaster 2. Windstorms Eleanor and Carmen impacted Western and Central Europe during the first week of January, killing at least seven people and causing significant damage in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, and Switzerland. Total damage from Eleanor was estimated at $1.1 billion. Above: People look at the damaged seawall caused by Eleanor in Wimereux, northern France, on January 6, 2018. Image credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images.
Friederike damage
January BIllion-Dollar Disaster 3. Windstorm Friederike left at least 13 people dead after hurricane-force wind gusts and heavy rainfall impacted Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom on January 18. Friederike was the costliest windstorm in Germany since 2007’s Windstorm Kyrill. Total damage from Friederike was estimated at $2.5 billion. Above: Parts of the roof structure of a primary school hang over the facade on January 19, 2018 in Halberstadt, eastern Germany, one day after the region was hit by Friederike. Image credit: MATTHIAS BEIN/AFP/Getty Images.
China cold
January Billion-Dollar Disaster 4.  Heavy snow and extreme cold affected parts of Central and Eastern China from January 24 to 29, killing two people. Tens of thousands of people were forced from their homes, and at least 2,500 structures were damaged. Extensive damage was reported to the agricultural sector in the hardest-hit provinces of Anhui, Hunan, Hubei, and Jiangsu. Total economic damage from the winter weather was estimated at $1.45 billion. Above: This photo taken on January 24, 2018, shows ice forming on the face of a Chinese sanitation worker on a cold winter day in Hulun Buir, northern China's Inner Mongolia region. Image credit: AFP/Getty Images.
Nice snow
February Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. An outbreak of cold arctic air engulfed a large portion of Europe during the second half of February, bringing extreme cold and heavy snow. Virtually every country in Europe was affected by the wintry weather as thousands of flights were cancelled or delayed. At least 88 fatalities were reported due to hypothermia, notably in Poland. Damage across Europe was estimated at $1.6 billion. Above: Nice, France after a heavy snow on February 28, 2018. Image credit: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.
March Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. A powerful nor’easter—Winter Storm Riley—brought hurricane-force wind gusts, heavy snowfall, torrential rain, and coastal flooding to much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. coast from March 1 to 3. At least nine people were killed, and states of emergency were declared in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Maryland, where the storm caused widespread wind and storm surge damage. Power outages hit 2.4 million customers as winds gusted up to 93 mph. Total damage, including business interruption, was estimated at $2.3 billion. Above: A row of homes in Scituate, Massachusetts, is surrounded by high-tide water at midday on Saturday, March 4, 2018. On March 3, Winter Storm Riley brought the third highest storm tide on record to Boston. Image credit: Ralph Karl Swenson, Amateur Radio SKYWARN Spotter (N1YHS), via NWS Taunton Skywarn.
Damage

March Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Large hail and damaging straight-line winds impacted the central and southern U.S. March 18 - 21. Hardest-hit were Texas, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. Most damage reports were due to shattered windows, dented roofs, and downed trees. Following the severe weather outbreak, a coastal nor’easter brought heavy snow to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, leading to widespread transit and business disruption. Total damage was estimated at $1.5 billion. Above: A destroyed shed on March 21, 2018 in Scituate, Massachusetts after the fourth nor'easter in three weeks hit. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images).

China snow
April Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. Extended cold and snow in China during the first half of April affected 1.5 million acres of cropland, causing $3.4 billion in damage. Above: A March 15, 2018, aerial view of the Beiling Park after snowfall in Shenyang in China's northeastern Liaoning province. Image credit: AFP/Getty Images.
Xanto on satellite as of 9:58 am EDT Friday, April 13, 2018
April Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. A major springtime storm system (Xanto) swept across the Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and the Northeast, bringing periods of severe thunderstorms, flooding rains, and heavy snow from April 13-17. At least six people were killed and many others injured. The most significant damage resulted from nearly 70 tornado touchdowns, up to baseball-sized hail, and straight-line winds. Blizzard conditions and freezing rain also led to anomalous snowfall accumulations in the Upper Midwest and New England. Dry air and gusty winds behind the system additionally helped fuel significant wildfires across parts of Oklahoma, leaving two people dead and numerous structures destroyed. Total economic losses were estimated at $1.4 billion. Above: Visible satellite image of the sprawling storm dubbed Xanto at 10 am EDT April 13, 2018. Image credit: NOAA, via NCAR/RAL.
May Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. A multi-day outbreak of severe weather affected central sections of the United States from April 30 to May 3, causing widespread damage but no deaths. Large hail (up to softball-sized), dozens of tornadoes and damaging straight-line winds caused $1.4 billion in damage in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Texas. Above: A group from Puget Sound, Washington, caught this dramatic photo of a large wall cloud in central Kansas on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Image credit:  Courtesy Michael Snyder, @guyinjeep16.
Tree damage
May Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. An active weather pattern brought multiple clusters of severe thunderstorms with baseball-sized hail, straight-line winds gusting in excess of 70 mph and isolated tornado touchdowns from the Rockies to the Northeast on May 12 – 16, killing at least 5 and causing $1.4 billion in damages. A “derecho”—a long lived, fast-moving line of storms defined by straight-line winds gusting in excess of 60 mph—affected areas around New York City, Washington DC, and Baltimore, MD. Above: Downed trees and power lines block Main Street South in Bridgewater, Conn., after severe storms rolled through the area Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Image credit: John Woike/Hartford Courant via AP.
Mekunu
May Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Cyclone Mekunu formed in the Arabian Sea in late May, and became the strongest storm of 2018 in the North Indian basin, peaking as a Category 3 cyclone with 115 mph winds. Mekunu made landfall in southwest Oman at Category 3 strength, killing 31 people across Yemen and Oman and causing $1.5 billion in damage. Mekunu was the third Category 3 or stronger cyclone on record to make landfall in the Arabian Peninsula since satellite data became available in 1970. Above: Tropical Cyclone Mekunu as seen May 23, 2018. At the time, Mekenu was a strong tropical storm with 70 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.
Texas storm
June Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. A massive hailstorm with hailstones larger than baseball-sized caused extensive damage in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan region in Texas during the early morning of June 6. The storm was part of a severe weather outbreak June 3 – 7 that caused $1.1 billion in damage. Above: A storm forms over the track during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series PPG 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 7, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. Image credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images.
June Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Severe weather led to extensive damage across the U.S. Rockies and Plains from June 17 - 20. Hail larger than the size of baseballs left severe damage to homes, businesses, and vehicles across the greater Denver metro region on June 18 -19. Straight-line winds and isolated tornado touchdowns hit the Northeast U.S., and flash flooding left at least three people dead in the Midwest. Total damage was estimated at $1.4 billion. Above: Mark Pickett (left) and Ryan Craig (right) work to rescue Bruce Salley, who was trapped in his car by flood waters in a supermarket parking lot in Rockford, Illinois, on Monday, June 18, 2018. An evening thunderstorm brought heavy rains across the Rock River Valley of northern Illinois, causing vehicles to get stuck in flood waters and stranding motorists. Image credit: Arturo Fernandez/Rockford Register Star via AP.
China flood
June Billion-Dollar Disaster 3. Seasonal Mei-yu rains led to further flooding across China’s Yangtze River Basin during the month of June—a continuation of flooding that began in May. The combined death toll from the floods was 108, as inundation impacted nearly 150,000 homes and upwards of 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) of cropland. The worst-affected provincial regions included Sichuan, Gansu, Chongqing, Hubei, Jiangsu, Guizhou, Anhui, Shaanxi, Henan, and Fujian. Total damage was estimated at $1.3 billion. Above: This aerial photo taken on June 22, 2018 shows buildings immersed in floodwaters in the Xiasi ancient town in Kaili in southwest China's Guizhou province. Image credit: AFP/Getty Images.
July Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. Historic rainfall from June 29 to July 8 prompted significant flash flooding and mudslides across Japan, leaving at least 230 people dead or missing from 11 prefectures. More than 40” (1,015 millimeters) of rain fell across parts of Kochi, Gifu, and Nagano prefectures and Tokushima. The rains, which were heaviest from July 4 to 7, were spawned by the presence of a stationary seasonal frontal boundary enhanced by remnant moisture from Typhoon Prapiroon. Floodwaters of up to 5.0 meters (16.4 feet) in height led to catastrophic inundation in some areas, with nearly 50,000 homes and other structures damaged or destroyed, and resulted in business disruption for several automobile and electronic manufacturing facilities. Total damage was estimated at $2 billion. According to a preliminary analysis released by the World Weather Attribution network, the disaster was made more likely by climate change, but the data was too noisy to compute by how much. Above: A man walks past a devastated street during floods in Saka, Hiroshima prefecture, on Sunday, July 8, 2018. Image credit: Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images.
July Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Widespread severe thunderstorms impacted the eastern two-thirds of the country from July 19 to 22, killing 18 people and causing $1.5 billion in damage. The most significant damage occurred in Iowa after several tornadoes, including two rated EF3, devastated the towns of Pella and Marshalltown. Other areas in the Plains, Midwest, and Southeast recorded large hail and damaging straight-line winds. Above: The tornado that swept through Marshalltown, Iowa, on Thursday, July 19, 2018. Image credit: Benjamin Fuller.
Mendocino Complex fire
July Billion-Dollar Disaster 3. Three huge fires roared through tinder-dry California in July, the hottest month in California history. The Mendocino Complex Fire was the largest in state history, and the Carr Fire, which affected the city of Redding on July 23, killed eight and was the sixth most destructive fire in California history. Total economic damage from the fires, including physical damage and firefighting costs, was $1.8 billion. Above: Firefighters conduct a controlled burn to defend houses against flames from the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, as it entered the town of Upper Lake, California on August 2, 2018. Image credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.
China flood
July Billion-Dollar Disaster 4. Flooding in southern China during May – July of 2018 killed 112 people and did $1.75 billion in damage. Above: Houses swept away by a landslide in Tianlin county in China's southern Guangxi region on June 24, 2018, due to heavy rains. Image credit: AFP/Getty Images).
Kerala flood
August Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Catastrophic monsoon flooding hit southwest India’s Kerala state in August, leaving more than 500 people dead or missing, in the state’s worst flooding since 1924. More than 23,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, 2.24 million acres of cropland were inundated, and nearly 6,400 kilometers (4,000 miles) of roadway segments and 134 bridges were washed away or damaged. Total damage was estimated at $5.5 billion. Above: A flooded area is pictured in the north part of Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala on August 18, 2018. Image credit: AFP/Getty Images.
Rumbia flood
August Billion-Dollar Disaster 3. Tropical Storm Rumbia made landfall near Shanghai, China on August 16 with top winds of 50 mph. Slow-moving Rumbia dumped torrential rains on soils already saturated by previous rain events, leading to disastrous flooding that killed 53 people and caused $5.4 billion in damage. Above: Rescuers evacuate residents with a truck through floodwaters after heavy rainfall caused by Rumbia in Huaibei in China's eastern Anhui province on August 19, 2018. Image credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images.
Hail
August Billion-Dollar Disaster 4. Consecutive days of severe thunderstorms brought significant hail damage across parts of the Rockies and Plains from August 6 - 8. At least 18 people were injured near Colorado Springs after softball-sized hail struck on August 6. Total damage was estimated at $1 billion. Above: Hailstones collected in El Paso County, Colorado on August 6, 2018. Image credit: NWS/Pueblo, CO.
September Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on September 14 as a Category 1 hurricane with 90 mph winds. Florence brought a storm surge of 5 – 6’ along much of the south coast of North Carolina, and set all-time high-water marks at two of the region’s three tide gauges with long-term records. Florence slowed to a crawl as it moved inland, bringing record rains and record river flooding. More than 30” of rain was recorded at several North Carolina stations, including 35.93” at Elizabethtown—an all-time record for the wettest tropical cyclone ever observed north of the Gulf Coast states. Heavy rainfall also occurred in South Carolina, with 23.63” observed near Loris—a new state record for rainfall from a tropical cyclone. At least 53 direct or indirect deaths were blamed on the storm. Total economic losses were $15 billion. Above: Volunteers help rescue residents and their pet from their flooded home during Hurricane Florence on September 14, 2018, in New Bern, North Carolina. Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
September Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Typhoon Jebi made landfall in Western Japan near Osaka on September 4 as a Category 2 storm, causing widespread wind, storm surge, and flood damage. At least 17 people were killed, 600 were injured, and damages were $13 billion. According to the JMA, Jebi was the strongest typhoon to strike Japan’s main island of Honshu since Typhoon Yancy of 1993. Above: Osaka’s Kansai International Airport on September 4, 2018, after Typhoon Jebi's storm surge inundated one runway and flooded Terminal 1. The airport was partially closed for 17 days after the typhoon. Image credit: Kentaro Ikushima/Mainichi Newspaper via AP.
Mangkut damage
September Billion-Dollar Disaster 3. After doing damage in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands as a Category 2 storm, Typhoon Mangkhut hit the Philippines on September 15 as a Category 5 storm with 165 mph winds. Mangkhut then made landfall in Hong Kong and China on September 16 as a borderline Category 2/Category 3 storm, according to the China Meteorological Agency. Mangkhut was regarded as the strongest typhoon to strike Hong Kong since Typhoon Ellen in 1983. In all, Manghut killed 161 and caused $6 billion in damage. Above: Windows of a commercial building damaged by Typhoon Mangkhut on Sept. 16, 2018, in Hong Kong. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images).
Hanoi flood
September Billion-Dollar Disaster 4. Between August 29 and September 5, heavy rainfall triggered landslides and flash floods across northern Vietnam and parts of China. The heavy rain event was the worst part of the July - September rainy season period that killed 38 people and left $2 billion in damage. Above: Turkeys stand on the roof of a house submerged in floodwaters in Hanoi's suburban Chuong My district on August 2, 2018. Image credit: Nhac Nguyen/AFP/Getty Images.
Hurricane Michael damage
October Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. Hurricane Michael roared ashore in Florida’s Panhandle as a top-end Category 4 storm with 155-mph winds on October 10, 2018, pushing a storm surge of 15+ feet to the coast. Michael killed 32 people and did damage of $17 billion, including $2.3 billion in damage to the Florida and Georgia timber industries and $2 billion in agricultural damage to Georgia. Public and private insurers--including the National Flood Insurance Program and the USDA’s crop insurance program—were expected to make more than $8 billion in payouts. Above: Bela (left) and Jaques Sebastiao begin the process of cleaning up their home after it was heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael, on October 17, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Florida. Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Luban
October Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. After peaking as a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds in the Arabian Sea on October 10, Tropical Cyclone Luban weakened and made landfall in eastern Yemen on October 14 as a tropical storm with 45 mph winds. Luban killed 24 people across Yemen and Oman, and caused $1 billion in damage. Above: Tropical Cyclone Luban on October 10, 2018, when it was a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.
October Billion-Dollar Disaster 3. A complex pattern of severe weather impacted much of Italy from October 28 to November 4, killing 29 and causing $5 billion in damage. Flooding, landslides, strong winds, waves, hail, and heavy snowfall caused major damage in the regions of Veneto, Liguria, Toscana, Piemonte, Lazio, Sardegna, and elsewhere. Venice suffered its fourth-highest water levels since 1872, and the highest since 2008. Above: Tourists make their way along water-covered sidewalks near the famed Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy, on Monday, October 29, 2018. Waters up to 5.1’ high flooded St. Mark’s Square. Image credit: Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images.
October Billion-Dollar Disaster 4. After peaking as a Category 5 super typhoon with 160-mph winds, Typhoon Trami brushed Okinawa, Japan, as a Category 2 storm, then made landfall in Japan’s Wakayama prefecture on September 30 as a Category 1 storm with 85-mph winds. Trami caused widespread disruption and damage on the Japanese mainland, killing 4 and injuring more than 200. At least 6,000 homes and other structures suffered damage due to wind and flooding, with total damages of $4.5 billion. Above: Himawari-8 visible image of Trami at 2330 UTC September 26, 2018. At the time, Trami was a Category 2 storm with 105-mph winds, and had an unusual “hub cloud” resembling a miniature typhoon in the eye (see animation here). Image credit: CIRA/RAMMB.
November Billion-Dollar Disaster 1. Unprecedentedly dangerous fire conditions were in place in November in California, because of a late start to the rainy season, a multi-year drought, and a five-year period that brought the five hottest years in California historyOn November 8, a spark ignited a catastrophic wildfire that swept through Paradise, California, killing 86 people and causing $15 billion in damage. It was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in 100 years, and the most damaging wildfire in world history, surpassing 2017’s $13 billion California Wine Country fire. Above: A burned neighborhood is seen in Paradise, California, on November 15, 2018. Image credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.
Woolsey Fire in Malibu
November Billion-Dollar Disaster 2. Beginning on November 8, Santa Ana winds fanned the Woolsey Fire northwest of Los Angeles, California, as it swept through the towns of Thousand Oaks and Malibu. The fire killed three, and did $5.8 billion in damage, making it the third costliest wildfire in world history. Above: A house burns during the Woolsey Fire on November 9, 2018 in Malibu, California. Image credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images.

First Billion-Dollar Disaster of 2019: Flooding in Argentina

Earth has already had its first billion-dollar weather disaster of 2019, according to Steve Bowen of Aon (see tweet below): flooding in Argentina following three weeks of torrential rain, which caused $2 billion in agricultural damage. According to EM-DAT, this ranks as Argentina's second-most expensive flood in history, behind a 1985 flood that cost $3.1 billion (2018 dollars).

Note: National and global climate round-ups for January are postponed

Because of the U.S. government shutdown, NOAA and NASA have been unable to compile the irreplaceable statistics that we use to write our summaries of national and global climate for the preceding year. We will write and publish our reports as soon as the data becomes available.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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Dr. Jeff Masters

Dr. Jeff Masters co-founded Weather Underground in 1995, and flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

jeff.masters@weather.com

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