Weather and climate disasters in the U.S. have taken more than 500 lives and cost more than $100 billion so far this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
In the first nine months of 2021, the U.S. has already faced 18 disasters that have cost more than $1 billion each, according to a report from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.
This is the seventh consecutive year the nation has had more than 10 disasters totaling more than $1 billion.
September alone brought "devastating impacts from four of the 18 disasters: flooding from Hurricane Ida, landfall of Hurricane Nicholas, and ongoing drought and wildfires tormenting communities in the West," NOAA said.
These disasters for 2021 included nine severe storms, four tropical cyclones, two flooding events, one combined drought and heat wave, one wildfire event, and one combined winter storm and cold wave.
From these disasters, 538 people have died so far in 2021.
This is "more than twice the number of fatalities than from all the events that occurred in 2020," the report says.
"Total losses due to property and infrastructure damage is up to $104.8 billion so far — eclipsing $100.2 billion incurred last year (adjusted for 2021 inflation)," the report says.
2020 saw the record number of $1 billion disasters at 22.
The average number of $1 billion disasters from 1980 to 2020 is seven. However, during the last five years, that average number has risen to 16.
Hurricane Ida has been the costliest disaster so far this year, and the final price tag is still unknown as claims are continuing to rise.
So far, Ida has exceeded $60 billion, ranking it as one of the top five most costly U.S. hurricanes on record.
Ida not only brought devastation to the Gulf Coast, but then caused catastrophic flooding to parts of the Northeast on September 1.
September heat was sizzling
September was one of the warmest on record.
"The average September temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 67.8 degrees F — 3.0 degrees above the 20th-century average — making it the fifth-warmest September in the 127-year climate record," says the report. Colorado and Rhode Island had its third warmest September on record.
California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming all finished September in the top 5 warmest.
The average temperature for the entire year was 1.9 degrees above average, making it the 10th warmest year to date on record. Maine is ranked as its second warmest year to date, while California is ranked third so far this year.
Precipitation, drought and fires
"Precipitation was above average across portions of the Northwest, Southwest, northern and central Plains and from the central Gulf Coast to New England," says the report.
Pennsylvania had its seventh-wettest September while Massachusetts ranked eighth wettest, mainly because of rain received by Ida's remnants.
Precipitation was below average across much of the northern Rockies, Deep South and Midwest, according to the report. Oklahoma had its ninth-driest September on record.
By the end of September, about 47.8 percent of the contiguous US was in drought.
"Drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the Midwest and central Plains and rapidly developed across the southern Plains during the second half of September," says the report.
The drought in the West has led to an active wildfire season across the region.
"By the end of September, almost six million acres were consumed across the U.S. This is approximately 500,000 acres less than the year-to-date 10-year (2011-2020) average," says the report.
As firefighters battled in September in California's Sequoia National Park, four famous trees were not harmed by a wildfire that reached the edge of Giant Forest.