wjxt logo

Billion-dollar disasters: How did 2021 compare to previous years?

An ice and snow covered alley in South Austin after a freezing rain storm rolled through the area on Feb. 17, 2021. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune, Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When looking back on 2021, it was another wild year for weather. Even though Jacksonville wasn’t directly impacted by a major disaster, others were not so lucky.

In 2021, there was an estimated $145 billion in disasters across the United States, with an estimated 688 lives lost.

You may remember a few of the top disasters of 2021, including the plunging temperatures in Texas back in February resulting in widespread snow and ice and leaving many freezing and without power.

Or you may remember the record-breaking heat wave across the Pacific Northwest lasting for days. For reference, the temperatures in Portland, Oregon, at that time of year sit in the 70s, but they reached more than 110 degrees. Roughly 100 people died from heat-related deaths in the state of Washington alone.

FILE - In this June 28, 2021, file photo, a display at an Olympia Federal Savings branch shows a temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit, in the early evening in Olympia, Wash. The Pacific Northwest is bracing for another major, multi-day heat wave in mid-August 2021 just a month after temperatures soared as high as 116 F in a record-shattering heat event that killed scores of the most vulnerable across the region. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The prolonged drought across the Western U.S. was labeled as severe or even extreme for months, impacting the agricultural sector and making it easy for wildfires the spread. In California alone, there were an estimated 2,568,948 acres burned, according to CA.gov.

Then we have Hurricane Ida — the storm that rapidly intensified to a category 4 hurricane before landfall in Louisiana, flattening homes along the coast and traveling up the east coast causing deadly flooding.

Courtesy Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere

The record weather in 2021 is just a snapshot of a longer warming trend across the U.S. from 1970 to 2021, with 2021 making the top 10 hottest years on record. The year also saw the hottest summer and third hottest fall.

For 246 weather stations across the U.S., the annual average temperature increased by 98 percent. Locally in Jacksonville, we warmed by 1.6 degrees last year.

Jacksonville Warming for 2021 Reported by Climate Central (Climate Central)

The greatest warming since 1970 occurred in the southwest region, led by Reno, Nevada, coming in at 7.7 degrees.

A Climate Central report shows that the average time between billion-dollar disasters has dropped from 82 days in the 1980s to 26 days in the 2010s. In the last five years (2016-2020), there have been just 18 days on average between billion-dollar disasters.

This is projected to increase further with rising global temperatures, putting a strain on the resources available.

Less time between disasters means less time for resources to be available to respond, recover and prepare for future events.

When looking back on 2021, it was another wild year for weather. Even though Jacksonville wasn’t directly impacted by a major disaster, others were not so lucky.

About the Author:

Danielle forecasts the weather on the weekends and reports on climate, environment and other issues during the week