The most extreme weather events this year

Thousands have been killed in fires and floods across the world

A woman carries her infant child as she looks over destruction wrought by Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar
Cyclone Mocha made landfall in May
(Image credit: Sai Aung Main / AFP via Getty Images)

 

Wildfires, floods and heatwaves have continued to make headlines as communities across the world have had their homes and lives threatened by deadly weather conditions.

This year already "seems destined to be remembered as the year that extreme weather events left the Northern Hemisphere reeling", said National Geographic. And as spring begins in the southern hemisphere, in some South American countries "it felt like the peak of summer", said CNN, as temperatures surpassed 40C. 

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Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a “final warning” on the climate crisis in a report earlier this year, and called for immediate action to limit carbon emissions.

The world is “up the proverbial creek”, said The Quint, but the IPCC report made clear that “we still have a paddle”. Action on climate change is no longer “a luxury but a must”, said Professor Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization.

Here are some of the extreme weather events the world has experienced in 2023.

Freezing in Afghanistan

Boys in Afghanistan shovel snow after wave of freezing temperatures

Boys in Afghanistan shovel snow after wave of freezing temperatures
(Image credit: Atif Aryan/AFP via Getty Images)

In January, Afghanistan saw temperatures plunge to -28C, well below average for the time of year and resulting in the deaths of 78 people and 77,000 livestock, according to CNN.

The sudden drop in temperature was attributed to polar vortex disruptions, said Al Jazeera, and "compounded the misery of Afghans", who are already "suffering from an unprecedented humanitarian crisis".

Floods in California

Two cars are stranded in the flood along a highway

California has seen major flooding in the last few months
(Image credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The US had its third wettest January on record this year, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.

California was "battered by an onslaught of 31 atmospheric river storms in a matter of months", said the Los Angeles Times. The storms "dumped record-setting snow across the Sierra Nevada and Southern California mountain ranges, breached levees and flooded communities".

Warm winter in Europe

A ski lift without passengers sits on a hillside with little snow

Ski resorts across Europe had to close due to a lack of snow
(Image credit: Lukas Kabon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Europe experienced its second warmest winter to date this year, according to data gathered by Copernicus Climate Change Service. A strong winter heat dome "pounced" on the continent, said The Washington Post, causing many ski resorts to temporarily close due to low snowfall.

The "unusually mild" temperatures "offered some short-term relief to governments struggling with high gas prices", said the Evening Standard, but "posed risks to wildlife and agriculture".

Cyclone Freddy

A row of coffins, surrounded by water and people, under a tent

Cyclone Freddy has killed hundreds of people
(Image credit: Amos Gumulira/AFP via Getty Images)

Cyclone Freddy made landfall in southern Africa in February "before circling back in March", said Reuters. It "left a trail of destruction in its wake after ripping through Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar".

More than half a million people were displaced and more than two million affected by the storm, Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera said in April. The death toll, he said, had surpassed 1,000 by then.

The cyclone may prove to be "the most energetic and long-lasting storm ever recorded", said Space.com.

Floods and landslides in Brazil

An aerial photo of a landslide on a hillside in Brazil

Parts of São Paul saw more than 680 millimeters of rainfall in one day
(Image credit: Michael Dantas / AFP via Getty Images)

At least 65 people were killed by landslides in São Paulo in southeastern Brazil in February that were triggered by torrential rainfall.

"Parts of the state saw more than 680 millimeters (26 inches) in a single day," according to Nasa. The heavy rainfall saturated hillsides, "destabilising the soils and underlying bedrock", said Nasa landslide expert Robert Emberson.

The following month a further mudslide killed eight people in Manaus, after a downpour "drenched the region", said La Prensa Latina.

Monsoon in Malaysia

A father pulls his children through a flooded street in Malaysia

A family wades through the flooded streets of Yong Peng, Malaysia
(Image credit: Mohd Rasfan /AFP via Getty Images)

More than 40,000 residents were forced to flee their homes in southern Malaysia in March due to extreme flooding that claimed four lives.

Monsoon season usually falls between November and March in the region, but this year's rains lingered and flooding continued, said Hawaii Public Radio. Experts blamed deforestation, over-development and climate change for the unprecedented amount of rainfall.

Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar

A woman carries her infant child as she looks over destruction wrought by Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar

Cyclone Mocha made landfall in May
(Image credit: Sai Aung Main / AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations appealed for aid to help 1.6 million people in Myanmar after Cyclone Mocha made landfall on 14 May. "Hundreds of makeshift shelters" were torn apart and 90% of the western Rakhine state’s capital city Sittwe was "destroyed", said the BBC.

Coastal winds of up to 150mph wrought destruction, causing flooding and landslides in "an area that is home to hundreds of thousands already displaced by the protracted conflict in Myanmar, many of them the Rohingya minority of Rakhine state", said UN News.

Wildfires in Canada

A photo of a waterbomber plane dropping water on a wildfire in a forest in Canada

More than 10 million acres had been scorched in Canada's worst wildfire season ever
(Image credit: James MacDonald / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Canada has suffered its "worst wildfire season in recorded history" this year, said The Guardian. More than 5,000 blazes have scorched through 32 million acres of land since the start of the year, "almost seven times the average for the same period over previous years".

The conditions have been "taxing on wildfire crews", said The Washington Post. Six firefighters died while tackling blazes in British Columbia this summer. 

South Korea floods

Rescue workers stand in deep water at the entrance of a flooded transport tunnel

More than 40 lives were claimed by torrential rain and floods in South Korea in July
(Image credit: South Korea National Fire Agency via Getty Images)

"Weeks of on-and-off torrential rain" killed at least 41 people in South Korea in July, VOA reported. "This year's monsoon is unlike any seen before" and the season is becoming "increasingly unpredictable".

The extreme weather "left thousands picking up the pieces from storm damage" as President Yoon Suk-yeol told officials to "spare no effort" in relief and rebuilding work.

Heatwave in the US

The sun shines through trees as a man seeks shade from heat in Phoenix

Phoenix experienced 31 consecutive days of extreme heat this summer
(Image credit: Mario Tama, Getty Images)

As "historic heat" levels hit Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in June and July, Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, "sweltered more intensely than most", said The Guardian, as temperatures in the city topped 43C for 31 consecutive days.

Hospitals saw "a rise in first-, second-, and third-degree contact burns, some fatal, amid extreme heat conditions". Arizona's most highly populated county, Maricopa, reported 25 deaths in relation to heat this year to 21 July, "and hundreds more are under investigation".

Europe's heatwave

Firefighters photographed against a background of smokey skies in Rhodes

A six-month state of emergency has been declared in Rhodes
(Image credit: Spyros Bakalis / AFP via Getty Images)

Scorching temperatures have impacted countries across Europe this summer too, with many experiencing wildfires.

Thousands of holidaymakers and residents were evacuated from the Greek island of Rhodes in July, which is now in a six-month state of emergency, after blazes "threatened resorts", said The Times. Greece has battled its "most intense wildfires in two decades of modern satellite records".

Fires have also burned across Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Croatia and France. As the UK's weather took "a turn for the worse" in August, tourists were "flocking to Britain to enjoy the cooler, wetter climate", said Sky News.

Floods in China

A man pulls bin bags through a flooded street in Beijing

Typhoon Doksuri has caused extreme flooding in the Hai River basin in China
(Image credit: Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)

Typhoon Doksuri caused "exceptional rainfall" in the Hai River basin in northern China, which covers Beijing, Hebei Province and Tianjin port, CNA reported. The region experienced "the worst floods since 1963 despite massive mitigation efforts" in August.

"China's Soviet-era urban drainage systems… leave cities vulnerable to waterlogging during heavy rain,” said CNA. Zhuozhou in Hebei was “unprepared", with many residents saying "they were not informed about the severity or the situation or told to evacuate" before the rains began. Authorities say 33 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. 

Fires in Hawaii

Aerial view across Lahaina Town in western Maui shows homes scorches and destroyed

At least 97 people are known to have died as blazes burnt across Maui in August

(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images)

 

A "devastating inferno" charged across Maui on 8 August, said The Associated Press. A "wall of flame" destroyed buildings and homes and killed at least 97 people. Officials have warned it will take years for the island to recover. 

The Hawaiian Electric Co has acknowledged that fallen power lines started the fire. Officials are now investigating whether the utility company had been negligent in its activities, including in keeping its infrastructure clear of flammable, overgrown foliage. 

A lack of planning and years of underfunding were reported to have left the island at risk of a fire threat

Cyclone in Brazil

Flooded homes across Mucum in Rio Grande do Sul

Homes were destroyed by heavy rainfall and flooding across the state of Rio Grande do Sul in September

(Image credit: Mateus Bruxel / Agencia RBS / AFP via Getty Images)

 In what Rio Grande do Sul's governor Eduardo Leite described as the state's worst weather disaster on record, an extratropical cyclone killed at least 27 people in southern Brazil in September.  

Officials said that almost 30cm of rain fell on the state in less than 24 hours, causing flooding and subsequent landslides. Rescue teams used helicopters to reach regions that were no longer reachable by road due to the floods, as the "storm battered around 60 cities" in the region, said Sky News

Floods in Libya

Water rushes down a street in Derna, eastern Libya. Destroyed buildings and houses are pictured on its banks.

Flooding in Libya has killed more than 11,000 people in the country's north-eastern region

(Image credit: AFP via Getty Images)

 

Derna was "practically flattened" in September as "Storm Daniel unleashed its wrath on a city that was mostly fast asleep", said Al Jazeera

Heavy rainfall led to the collapse of two dams, which caused extensive flash flooding and washed away entire homes and neighbourhoods. Thousands of people remain missing and displaced, and the death toll has passed 11,000 people. 

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