Every storm has a price, but some are more expensive than others. In 2021, there were 20 billion-dollar disasters (the second-highest on record) causing $145B in damages. 2020 holds the record for the most billion-dollar disasters in a year with 22, costing $102B (5th on record). But which years were the most expensive?

By far, weather disasters that occurred in 2017 cost the most. There were 16 (tie for 3rd most) billion-dollar disasters in 2017 costing a combined $346B in damage. However, two tropical systems alone were responsible for more than 70% of that amount. Hurricane Maria did ~$102B in damage, while Hurricane Harvey cost ~$141B.

2005 was the second costliest doing ~$244B of damage, with only six billion-dollar events total. 75% of the damage costs in 2005 came from Hurricane Katrina which alone did $182.5B of damage. Three other hurricanes did a combined $58B in damage. The graphic below shows the cost of billion-dollar disasters in the U.S. since 1980. However, you may also notice the six most expensive storms have occurred since the turn of the century.

The cost of the U.S.’s billion-dollar weather disasters from 1980-2021

Disasters are broken into seven categories: Tropical cyclones, winter storms, severe storms, wildfires, drought, flooding, and freeze. The past two years have not recorded billion-dollar freezes and in 2020 there were no billion-dollar winter storms or flooding either. One thing is clear, tropical cyclones cause the most damage, price-wise. Last year (and just like 2017 and 2005) over half the total cost from the 20 billion-dollar disasters was due to four tropical cyclones (Hurricane Ida alone cost $75B). Below you can compare the costs from 2021 to 2020.

Billion-dollar disaster costs 2021 vs 2020

Iowa has experienced two billion-dollar disasters in the past two years, and both years rank in the top 10 for most expensive years due to weather disasters. The amount of damage caused in the floods of 1993 drove costs to the top for Iowa. Between severe weather and the floods, 1993 became the most expensive year due to weather disasters, costing $12.2 billion. 2020’s August derecho helped bring the year into 2nd place for the most expensive storms. Iowa sustained $10.6B of damage from severe storms in April, July, and August (derecho) and the summer drought, though the majority of damage was largely from the August 10th derecho.