How increasing billion-dollar storms relates to climate change

This week may be quiet, but it certainly hasn’t been this way throughout the year. 2023 has been a mess of severe storms and other types of damaging weather.

It’s been an active weather year so far with 7 separate events that created at least a billion dollars per disaster. Five events were related to severe storms, 1 was from a winter storm, and 1 was due to flooding.

These events combined resulted in 97 deaths and more than $19 billion worth of damage. This year, January through April has been expensive, coming in 2nd place for the costliest first 4 months on record behind 2021.

One of these severe events impacted Indiana - the tornado outbreak we saw at the end of March and beginning of April.

This ended up being the 3rd largest tornado outbreak in United States history with 145 tornadoes total. Of these tornadoes, 11 were significant, receiving an EF-3 rating. 23 tornadoes with 4 being rated EF-3 passed through Indiana, making this the 5th largest tornado outbreak for the state on record.

2023 billion-dollar weather disasters NOAA/NCEI
The first ⅓ of this year has not only been busy with severe weather, but it has also been remarkably warm. The US saw its 4th warmest year on record for the timeframe of January through April.

It’s been the warmest year for 7 states and within the top 10 warmest years for 21 states. Here in South Bend, we've seen 93 warmer than average days - that's over 70% of this year so far!

Many people have been feeling grateful for this year’s above-average temperatures, but the warmer weather hints at a greater problem - climate change.

In line with our rising average temperatures, the number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters we see is on the rise. It’s no secret that the planet is warming, but the connection between climate change and extreme weather isn’t always so obvious.

Take severe storms for example, which account for almost half of billion-dollar weather events - warm, rising air is a key ingredient for the initiation and development of these storms.

With warming average temperatures, the potential for severe weather is becoming more likely for more people and for a longer time throughout the year.

Trend showing the number of billion-dollar storms since 1980 Climate Central

Share this article: