Natural Disaster Statistics (2023)
The United States is no stranger to nature's fury. From hurricanes to wildfires, the country faces a range of natural disasters that can cause big problems. This article, part of RubyHome's compilation of real estate stats, dives into the facts and figures about natural disasters in the U.S. and will cover the following topics in greater detail:
- What Are the Most Common Types of Natural Disasters?
- Are Natural Disasters Becoming More Common?
- Economic Impact of Natural Disasters
- How Many People Die from Natural Disasters?
- What States Are Most at Risk for Natural Disasters?
- Natural Disasters and Insurance
Natural Disasters Key Stats
- From 2018 to 2022, there were an average of 18 climate disasters per year in the U.S. which cost over $1 billion. (National Centers for Environmental Information)
- There are typically 363 deaths per year because of natural disasters in the U.S. (NCEI)
- On average, climate disasters cost the U.S. economy $123.5 billion per year. (NCEI)
- The number of $1 billion natural disaster events per year has increased from 3.3 in the 1980s to 13.1 in the 2010s, a 397% increase. (NCEI)
- Tropical cyclones are 4.28x more likely to occur now compared to the 1980s. (NCEI)
What Are the Most Common Types of Natural Disasters?
Here’s a breakdown of the U.S. natural disasters costing over $1 billion from 1980-2023:
- Since 1980, severe storms have accounted for the highest number of billion-dollar disaster occurrences (177).
- There were 62 recorded severe storms in 2022, but only 11 caused more than $1 billion in damages.
- Compared to other disasters costing over $1 billion, severe storms had the lowest average event cost ($2.4 billion).
Wildfires, Heat Waves, & Drought
- Since 1980, there have been 21 wildfires and 30 droughts in the U.S. which cost over $1 billion.
- Drought and heat wave events have been responsible for 4,275 deaths since 1980.
- Every 8 out of 10 years there is a drought in the U.S. which costs more than $1 billion.
Read more about house fire statistics.
- Since 1980, there have been 41 floods in the U.S. which cost over $1 billion.
- Of the 41 floods mentioned above, the average cost was $4.6 billion.
- There were 15 recorded floods in 2022, of which only 1 cost more than $1 billion.
Winter Storms & Cold Waves
- Every other year the U.S. experiences a winter storm which results in over $1 billion in damages.
- Since 1980, winter storms have caused $97.1 billion in damages.
- There have been 9 cold waves since 1980 which resulted in over $1 billion in damages.
- Tropical cyclones are responsible for 6,890 deaths, the highest number of deaths for natural disasters since 1980.
- Tropical cyclones account for over 50% of the total costs associated with natural disasters amounting to $1.36 trillion since 1980.
- Since 1980, there have been 60 tropical cyclones which cost on average $22.7 billion.
- Of the 3 tropical cyclones in 2022, each led to over $1 billion in damages.
Are Natural Disasters Becoming More Common?
Climate change has been linked to an increase in the frequency and severity of some types of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, heat waves, and heavy rainfall events. Rising global temperatures have led to changes in weather patterns and ocean conditions, which in turn can influence the occurrence and intensity of these events.
In the 1980s, the U.S. experienced on average 3.3 natural disasters per year which cost over $1 billion (CPI adjusted). The number of costly disasters has risen each decade, as the 2010s saw an average of 13.1 disasters which cost over $1 billion per year.
Here are a few more insightful statistics on the increased frequency of natural disasters in recent years:
- 34% of all $1 billion storm events since 1980 occurred in the past 5 years (2018-2023).
- There was an average of 299 deaths per year from natural disasters in the 1980s and an average of 509 deaths over the past 10 years (2013-2023).
- Tropical cyclones have occurred 4.28 times more often in the past 5 years compared to the 1980s.
Economic Impact of Natural Disasters
Here are some stats from the National Centers for Environmental Information on the economic impact of natural disasters:
- On average, climate disasters cost the U.S. economy $123.5 billion per year.
- Since 1980, natural disasters have cost the U.S. more than $2.5 trillion.
- Nearly half (46%) of the total costs associated with natural disasters since 1980 have occurred in the past 10 years (2013-2023).
The following chart displays what types of natural disasters are most costly by showing how each type of disaster contributes to the overall cost of all disasters.
Although cyclones account for only one-sixth of the $1 billion disaster events since 1980, they account for over half (52.8%) of the total costs.
Earthquakes are not included in the data from the NCEI. According to estimates from FEMA, earthquakes cost the United States. $14.7 billion annually. West Coast states are the most at risk of earthquakes, with 78% of these costs coming from California, Washington, and Oregon.
Looking at data from the past 10 years (2013-2023), this puts the annual estimated costs of earthquakes after tropical cyclones ($60.2 billion) and severe storms ($20.5 billion).
How Many People Die from Natural Disasters?
Since 1980, tropical cyclones and droughts have been the deadliest in the U.S. Here’s a breakdown of deaths by natural disaster type:
Here are some more stats about fatalities in the U.S. from natural disasters:
- There are typically 363 deaths per year caused by natural disasters.
- 15,958 people died from natural disasters since 1980. 43% of these deaths were due to tropical cyclones.
- The deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history was Hurricane Galveston which claimed an estimated 6,000-12,000 lives in 1900.
- Since 1980, only 141 deaths can be attributed to earthquakes or about 3 people per year.
What States Are Most at Risk for Natural Disasters?
These states have been impacted the most by natural disasters since 1980:
- California ($100-200 billion): Wildfires made the biggest economic impact in California accounting for $50-100 billion in damages.
- Florida ($380+ billion): Tropical cyclones account for the vast majority ($360+ billion) of natural disaster costs in Florida.
- Louisiana ($200-300 billion): Tropical cyclones account for the vast majority ($200-300 billion) of natural disaster costs in Louisiana.
- Texas ($390+ billion): Tropical cyclones made the biggest economic impact in Texas accounting for $200-300 billion in damages.
The following states were impacted the least by natural disasters, each having a total cost of just $2-5 billion since 1980:
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
In essence, states in the southeast region and eastern seaboard are most at risk for severe natural disasters due to tropical cyclones. Midwestern states such as Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois suffer most from severe storms. States in the far northeast and Rocky Mountain region are least susceptible to economic losses from natural disasters.
Natural Disasters and Insurance
Home insurance coverage for natural disasters can vary depending on the specific policy and the insurance provider. In many cases, standard home insurance policies may provide coverage for certain types of natural disasters, while others may require you to purchase additional coverage or a separate policy.
Common natural disasters that may be covered by home insurance include:
- Windstorms and Hail: Damage caused by strong winds and hailstorms is typically covered by standard home insurance policies.
- Fire: Most home insurance policies cover damage from fires, including wildfires, as long as they are not caused by specific excluded reasons.
- Lightning Strikes: Lightning strikes that result in damage to your home or property are generally covered by standard policies.
However, there are several natural disasters that are often not covered by standard home insurance policies, or coverage may be limited:
- Floods: Flood damage is usually not covered by standard home insurance policies. You would typically need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private insurer.
- Earthquakes: Earthquake coverage is typically not included in standard policies, and you would need to purchase a separate earthquake insurance policy.
- Mudslides and Landslides: Damage from these events may or may not be covered, depending on the policy and the cause of the event.
- Sinkholes: Coverage for damage from sinkholes may vary by policy and location.
- Hurricanes: While wind damage from hurricanes is often covered, some coastal areas may have special deductibles or exclusions for hurricane-related damage.
It's important to carefully review your home insurance policy and discuss your coverage options with your insurance provider to understand exactly what natural disasters are covered and what additional coverage you might need.
If you live in an area prone to certain types of natural disasters, it's a good idea to consider purchasing the necessary additional coverage to protect your home and belongings.
Natural disasters have a huge economic impact on the U.S. and have become increasingly common over time. With climate disasters costing over $123 billion annually, tropical cyclones and severe storms tend to leave the biggest mark.
Around 363 people die every year in climate disasters, with southern and eastern states being most at risk. It’s important to determine what is covered by home insurance, as most policies typically cover some but not all potential hazards posed by natural disasters.