Record breaking extreme weather events in 2021 broke all records across the globe. Many were killed in heatwaves or storms. Farmers had to deal with drought and, in some cases, locust diseases. Wildfires set new records for carbon emissions, swallowing homes, towns, and forests.
Climate change was a major factor in many of these events. Scientists say there are more to come – and worse – as the Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm through the next decade and beyond.
Here are some of these events that Reuters witnessed in the past year.
February — A blistering cold spell hit normally warm Texas125 people were killed in the state, and millions without power in freezing temperatures.
Scientists have not reached a conclusion on whether climate change caused the extreme weatherHowever, the Arctic warming is making weather more unpredictable around the world.
February — Kenya and other parts of East Africa battled some of the worst locust plagues in decadesThe insects were destroying crops, and grazing ground. Scientists believe that climate change has caused unusual weather patterns that have made it possible for insects to flourish.
March — Beijing’s sky turned orange and flights were grounded during the Chinese capital’s worst sandstorm in a decade.
Busloads of volunteers arrive in the desert each year to plant trees, which can stabilize the soil and serve as a wind buffer. Scientists predict that climate change could lead to desertification. Dryer winters and hotter summers will decrease moisture levels.
June — Nearly all of the western United States was gripped by a drought that emerged in early 2020. Officials announced emergency measures and farmers abandoned their crops. Hoover Dam reservoir hit an all-time low.
The U.S. government confirmed in September that the Southwest had experienced the following 20 months of decline. lowest precipitation in over a centuryIt linked drought to climate change.
June — Hundreds died during a record-smashing heatwave in the U.S. and Canadian Pacific Northwest, which scientists concluded would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change.
Over several days power lines became brittle and roads buckled. Cities that couldn’t cope with the heat opened cooling centers to help their residents. Portland, Oregon reached an all-time high of 116 degrees Fahrenheit during the heatwave.
July — Catastrophic flooding killed more than 300 people in central China’s Henan province when a year’s worth of rain fell in just three days.
Nearly 200 people also died in Europe. torrential rains soaked Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Scientists concluded that climate change had made the floods 20% more likely to occur.
July — A record heatwave and drought in the U.S. West gave rise to two massive wildfires that tore through California and OregonThese were the largest ever recorded in the history of both the states.
Scientists say both the growing frequency and the intensity of wildfires are largely attributable to prolonged drought and increasing bouts of excessive heat from climate change.
July — Large parts of South America are suffering from a prolonged drought. While Chile is enduring a decade-long megadrought linked to global warming, this year Brazil saw one of its driest years in a century.
In Argentina, the Parana, South America’s second-longest river, fell to its lowest level since 1944.
Heatwaves around the world are becoming more severe and more frequent.
August — In the Mediterranean, a hot and dry summer fanned intense blazes that forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes in Algeria, Greece and Turkey.
The fires, which claimed the lives of two people in Greece, and at least 65 in Algeria were set off by an intense heatwave. Some areas in Greece recorded temperatures exceeding 46 Celsius (115 F).
Late August — Nearly all the world’s mountain glaciers are retreating due to global warming. The Swiss resort workers are based in the Alps. laid protective blankets over one of Mount Titlis’s glaciers during the summer months to preserve what ice is left.
Switzerland has already lost 500 of its glaciers and could lose 90% of the 1,500 remaining by the end century if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the government stated.
August/September — Hurricane Ida, which hit Louisiana as a Category 4 storm, killed nearly 100 people in the United States and caused an estimated $64 billion in damage, according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.
As the remnants of Ida moved inland, the heavy rains created flash flooding across the densely populated Northeast, vastly increasing the storm’s death toll.
Climate change is strengthening hurricanes, while also causing them to linger longer over land – dumping more rain on an area before moving on. Studies also suggest these storms are becoming more frequent in the North Atlantic.
September — Infrastructure and homes in Russia are increasingly in peril as underground permafrost melts and deforms the land underneath them.
Permafrost used to be a solid foundation, and in some regions it remained frozen until the last Ice Age. But rising global temperatures threaten the layer of ice, soil, rocks, sand and organic matter.
November — The worst floods in 60 years in South Sudan have affected about 780,000 people, or one in every 14 residents, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Each year, the county experiences a rainy period. However, flooding has set records for three consecutive years. As temperatures rise, the destruction will likely increase. scientists say.
November — A massive storm dumped a month’s worth of rain over two days in the Canadian province of British ColumbiaFloods and mudslides erupted, destroying roads, railroads, and bridges. It is likely the most expensive natural disaster in Canada’s history, although officials are still assessing the damage.
Meteorologists believe that the rain was caused by an atmospheric river, or a stream water vapor that runs hundreds of miles from tropics. Atmospheric rivers are expected to become larger — and possibly more destructive — with climate change, scientists say.