Three consecutive hurricanes and a flurry of major Western wildfires made 2017 the most expensive year ever for natural disasters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday.
The disasters cost $306 billion in total damage, with 16 events that caused more than $1 billion in damage each and collectively killed 362 people.
Hurricanes represented most of the costs, at $265 billion.
Hurricane Harvey, which flooded Houston in August and September, was the year’s costliest disaster, causing $125 billion in damage.
Hurricane Maria caused $90 billion in damage after devastating Puerto Rico and the Caribbean in late September, setting off a humanitarian crisis and leaving much of the U.S. territory without power. Hurricane Irma, hitting the Caribbean and Florida earlier in September, caused $50 billion in damage, NOAA reports.
Western wildfires, mostly in California, cost $18 billion and killed 54 people. It was the costliest year ever for wildfires.
The previous most expensive year for natural disasters was 2005, causing $215 billion in damage, led by Hurricane Katrina.
Climate scientists have suggested that climate change is making weather-related disasters more severe. NOAA scientists declined to make that link with the release of Monday’s report, but said they will investigate global warming’s impact.
“For the purposes especially of this product, we do not try to parse those apart,” said Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring section at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “We’re more interested in quantifying what’s going on. Both the economists and physical scientists will retrospectively look at that, but those sort of happen at the speed of science.”