01Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami - $360 Billion
Japan's economy was dealt a devastating blow by the 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that pummeled the country on March 11, 2011. An estimated 28,000 died, and 500,000 were displaced. It cost $360 billion.
It damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which leaked radiation into the Pacific Ocean, raising levels to 4,000 times the legal limit. Radiation showed up in local milk and vegetables, and briefly appeared in Tokyo's drinking water.
02Hurricane Katrina - $108 Billion to $250 Billion
The National Hurricane Center estimated Hurricane Katrina's damage at $108 billion, with $80 billion in insured losses. Half of these losses were a result of flooding in New Orleans. University of North Texas Profession Bernard Weinstein put the total economic impact at $250 billion.
03Hurricane Harvey - $180 Billion
Hurricane Harvey was a Category 4 storm that hit Texas on August 25, 2017. It caused $180 billion in damage. It affected 13 million people from Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. As of September 9, 2017, 70 people have died.
04Hurricane Maria - $90 Billion
Hurricane Maria was a Category 5 storm when it hit Dominica on September 18, 2017. On September 20, it devastated Puerto Rico, home to 3.5 million Americans. Even though it had been downgraded to a Category 4 storm, it still cost $90 billion in damage. The official death toll is 64, but a New York Times analysis said it could be 1,052.
05Hurricane Irma - Possibly $50 Billion
Hurricane Irma was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in recorded history. It was a Category 5 storm when it made landfall on Barbuda on September 6, 2017. Its winds were 185 miles per hour for 37 hours. That's longer than any storm ever recorded. It hit southern Florida on September 10, inflicting $50 billion in damage. If it had hit Miami instead, the damage would have totaled $300 billion.
06Hurricane Sandy - $50 Billion
Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey on October 29, 2012. It had been downgraded to a tropical storm, but still did $50 billion in damage. That's because of 12 1/2 foot storm surges. It damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes and eight million customers lost power. It closed the NYSE for the first time in 27 years. The New Jersey electronic exchanges closed for two days. The storm killed 159 people either directly or indirectly.
07Hurricane Ike - $29.5 Billion
Hurricane Ike cost $29.5 billion. It damaged pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico and destroyed 10 Gulf offshore oil rigs. All 22 Texas land-based oil refineries were shut down. This part of Texas is home to a quarter of U.S. crude oil and refinery production. As a result, gas prices spiked to $5 a gallon, prompting the government to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
08Hurricane Irene - $15.8 Billion
Hurricane Irene hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina on August 26, 2011. It was a Category 2 by the time it made landfall.
Hurricanes lose power as they travel over land, so Irene became a Category 1 by the time it reached New York on August 27, and a tropical storm by the time it arrived in New England on Sunday. Irene was the first hurricane to hit the Boston area since 1991.
Irene killed at least 20 people and left 4.5 million people without power. Property damage was $15.8 billion. University of Maryland economist Peter Morici estimated total economic impact at $45 billion.
09Haiti Earthquake - $8.5 Billion
Between 200,000-250,000 people were killed by the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that ravaged Haiti in January 2010. That was 2 percent of the total Haitian population of 10 million. The Inter-American Development Bank estimated that it cost $8.5 billion in damage to Haiti's economy. The earthquake caused the country's GDP to contract 5.1 percent that year.
10Tornado Outbreak - $5 Billion
The largest tornado outbreak in U.S. history occurred April 25-27, 2011. In that week, 305 twisters damaged the Southeast, breaking the 1974 record of 267 tornadoes. The outbreak caused $5 billion in damage. One single tornado in 1999 cost $1 billion alone. Although experts disagree, there is reason to believe these expensive outbreaks will get worse.
11Iceland Volcano - $5 Billion
Volcanic clouds and ash from the May 21, 2011, eruption in Iceland threatened air traffic in Scotland, Ireland, France and other hubs in the northern European Union. Even though the Grimsvotn volcanic eruption was bigger than the previous year's, it wasn't as destructive economically. That's because the ash wasn't as dense, and dispersed more easily.
Iceland's 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption closed European airports for six days, costing airlines $200 million a day. They were not insured for this type of loss.
Iceland's volcanic eruptions threatens the travel industry. It contributes $1 trillion to the European economy annually. The 2010 eruption cost the travel industry $5 billion to $10 billion a week. When air traffic in Europe slows, it threatens more than just passengers. Up to 40 percent of the world's goods by value moves by air. Drug companies, time-sensitive high-tech imports, and premium products such as fine Scotch whiskeys all sit on the tarmacs when airports are closed.
The 2011 Mississippi River flood was a 500-year event. Total economic damage could reach several billion. Why? The Mississippi River runs past farmlands and cities in six states. The flood's greatest damage could come when it empties in New Orleans, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
13The Dust Bowl Drought - $1 Billion
The Dust Bowl was an area in the Midwest demolished by a 1930s drought. It was the worst drought in North America in 300 years.
Weather patterns over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans had shifted. The Pacific grew cooler and the Atlantic became warmer. That weakened and changed the direction of the jet stream. When the jet stream moved south, rain from the Gulf of Mexico never reached the Great Plains.
The resultant drought killed crops that normally kept the soil in place. Winds blew raised enormous clouds of dust. It deposited mounds of dirt on everything, even covering houses. The dust destroyed a large part of U.S. agricultural production. That worsened the Great Depression.
Between 1956-2005, the Earth's average temperature rose .13°C each decade. This might not seem like much, but that's double the rate for the 100 years between 1906 to 2005. Antarctic glaciers are losing mass at an "unusually rapid" rate. Satellite pictures taken between 1992 and 1996 showed that the Pine Island Glacier was losing mass at a rate 42 times faster than the average over the preceding 5,000 years.
Higher temperatures are causing loss of timber thanks to the bark beetle, and more chaotic weather patterns. The result? More frequent and severe natural disasters.
Natural Disasters' Effects on the Economy
Natural Disasters Are a Bigger Threat Than Terrorism
Financial guru Warren Buffett said that natural disasters have a greater economic impact than terrorism. They include hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, droughts and tsunamis. They cost the insurance industry billions. If large enough, they can slow economic growth for decades.They can raise food and gas prices.
Global warming, according to a UN study, increases natural disasters. In 2017, wildfires and hurricanes set new records in natural disaster damage. There were 16 events that cost more than $1 billion each, to total $306 billion.
Perhaps the Sage of Omaha would agree that a war on global warming would be a better use of federal funds than the War on Terror. Listed below are the 13 most destructive natural disasters.