The U.S. was hit with 15 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the first nine months of the year, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Along with September 2022 being quite warm and dry, it saw an uptick in tropical activity in the Atlantic, with Hurricanes Fiona and Ian bringing devastation in their wake.
Below are highlights from NOAA’s September U.S. climate report:
Climate by the numbers
The average September temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 68.1 degrees F — 3.2 degrees above the 20th-century average — making it the fifth-warmest September in the 128-year climate record.
For the month of September, Nevada and Utah ranked warmest on record. Arizona, California, Idaho and Wyoming each had their second-warmest September on record, while Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Washington experienced a top-five warm September.
The average precipitation last month was 1.83 inches (0.66 of an inch below average), ranking as the 10th-driest September on record.
Dry conditions across the central U.S. gave Oklahoma its fifth-driest September on record, and Mississippi its eighth. Meanwhile, Alaska had well-above average precipitation, seeing its third-wettest September in the 98-year state record.
Year to date (YTD, January through September 2022)
The year-to-date average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 56.8 degrees F — 1.7 degrees above average — ranking in the warmest third of the YTD record. California and Florida saw their third- and fourth-warmest January-through-September periods on record, respectively.
Looking at the year so far, the average precipitation total was 21.53 inches (1.67 inches below average) and ranked in the driest third of the record.
California saw its driest such YTD on record, while Nebraska ranked sixth driest and Texas ranked eighth driest.
Billion-dollar disasters to date
From January through the end of September, the U.S. experienced 15 weather and climate disasters, each incurring losses that exceeded $1 billion. These disasters included: 10 severe storms, two tropical cyclones, one flooding event, one combined drought and heat wave and one regional wildfire event.
Six new events occurred since the mid-year update, including:
- Hurricane Ian.
- Hurricane Fiona.
- The western wildfires.
- The Kentucky/Missouri flooding.
- And two severe storm events.
These disaster events resulted in over 340 deaths, with assessments ongoing as of this writing due to hurricane impacts in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Total losses due to property and infrastructure damage is up to $29.3 billion in 2022 so far — but this does not yet include the costs for Hurricane Ian, the western wildfires and Hurricane Fiona, which may push the 2022 total closer to $100 billion — a total reached in four of the last five years.
2022 is also a record eighth-consecutive year where the U.S. experienced 10 or more separate billion-dollar disasters.
Other notable climate events
- The tropics brought devastation to parts of the U.S.: Several storms with tropical origins impacted the U.S. in September. Early in the month, Tropical Storm Kay raked California with gusty winds and heavy rains, causing mudslides. The powerful remnants of Typhoon Merbok pounded Alaska’s west coast mid-month, pushing homes off their foundations and flooding communities. On September 18, Hurricane Fiona brought massive flooding to Puerto Rico with some areas receiving 12-18 inches of rain. Hurricane Ian, with 150 mph sustained winds, made landfall in southwest Florida as a strong Category 4 hurricane on September 28, resulting in major flooding, damage and loss of life before creating additional damage as it made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.
- Drought conditions intensified: According to the September 27 U.S. Drought Monitor report, about 50.9% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up about 5.4% from the end of August. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across portions of the Mississippi Valley, central and northern Plains, Northwest, Southeast and parts of the Great Lakes. Drought lessened or was eliminated across portions of the Southwest, southern Plains, Northeast and Puerto Rico.