Quantifying the Economic Impact of Weather Disasters in 2021 (Fox Weather)

What a year 2021 was! The jury is still out on the year’s total weather disaster-related economic costs, but according to NOAA (The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), the first 9 months of 2021 alone saw 18 extreme weather events in the USA, making it the second-largest year on record.

Care to guess which year was at No.1? That’s right, 2020, with 22 climate & weather-related disasters.

I joined Fox Weather to discuss the ramifications on the US economy and how the burgeoning climate tech industry could help us in transforming our resilience levels against weather disasters in the future.

How NOAA Quantifies The Economic impact of Weather Disasters

Through its National Centers For Environmental Information division, NOAA has been tracking extreme weather and climate disasters since 1980. The agency calculates and categorizes every year’s weather disasters that exceed $1 billion in economic costs.

The preliminary numbers that emerge immediately after such disasters are very rough estimates, which is why I prefer to track NOAA’s calculations. The agency’s methodical and thorough approach is the Gold Standard for measuring the economic costs of weather disasters.

Image Showing Weather and Climate Disasters Throughout The Year

Source: NOAA

So How Does 2021 Rank?

Unfortunately, we’ve seen no shortage of disastrous weather events this year. And while the calendar could mean a ‘new page’ for individuals, the climate certainly doesn’t care that we’ve entered into 2022 – as we’ve already seen with the unseasonal Colorado wildfires, which will undoubtedly be another costly disaster.

Compared to 2020, which saw 22 climate and weather disasters exceeding $1 billion and a total of $100.2 billion in costs according to NOAA, 2021 had already surpassed those numbers by the end of September, with 18 disasters costing $104.8 billion.

For those wondering how much climate change had a hand in this, here is an alarming fact: The total weather and climate disaster costs for the last five years (2016-2020) reached $640.3 billion. This is nearly a 1/3 of the total costs since NOAA started tracking them! ($2.085 trillion, inflation-adjusted to 2021 dollars)

After the final numbers for 2021 are calculated, including December’s tragic tornado outbreak that ripped through Kentucky and the devastating Colorado wildfires, it may very well end up as the most costly year on record since 1980.

This begs the question, can we better prepare for weather disasters in 2022?

How Climate Tech Helps Businesses Adapt to More Frequent Weather Disasters

As the different sectors of ‘The Weather Enterprise’ come together to help protect us from weather and climate disasters, revolutionary climate tech companies are emerging to drive major innovations in sustainability and resilience.

  • Companies like Everstream Analytics help protect supply chains by delivering actionable weather insights that ensure businesses maintain their obligations.
  • Climate prediction companies like Climavision leverage radar and space-based observations to enhance weather forecast accuracy for public and private sectors.
  • Behavior analysis companies like Planalytics work with retailers to predict consumer demand according to weather data.
  • And of course, there’s us here at BreezoMeter, who protect people from environmental health impacts and provide them with personalized insights that help them achieve better health outcomes.

Empowering People to Protect Themselves

As human settlement continues to expand, we become more exposed to high-impact weather events, the risk from which climate change is only going to worsen. This is where climate tech comes in.

This incredibly fast-growing industry is enabling people to monitor changes in their environments in real-time, protecting their health and even, with things like live wildfire tracking, already saving lives.

I’m optimistic about our future. Climate tech is already gaining a lot of positive attention. In fact, I’ve just returned from CES Las Vegas where I was proud to feature BreezoMeter at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show.

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Paul Walsh Weather Man
Paul Walsh

Previously at IBM and The Weather Company, I have decades of experience in helping large consumer businesses re-imagine how they systemically leverage weather and climate data in both supply and demand chain systems -- creating integrated enterprise processes that are more responsive and more resilient in the face of increasingly impactful weather conditions. My observations have been featured in the US on The Weather Channel and CNBC, & I've been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and The New York Times. Connect with me!