This year, a wide variety of natural disasters struck many parts of the globe.
From deadly floods and wildfires to record-breaking rainfall and temperatures, countries including the United States, Greece, Indonesia, and China – among others – have all been affected.
Extreme weather events are major indicators of climate change. Scientists have warned that this issue requires urgent action from world leaders, currently attending the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP26 at Glasgow.
Here’s a summary of the major environmental events of 2021.
During the first week in January, at least four people died in snowstorms across Spain. The blizzard trapped motorists and closed the capital Madrid’s air and rail links.
Madrid experienced its heaviest snowfall since 1971 after what Spain’s weather agency described as “exceptional and most likely historic” conditions caused by Storm Filomena.
The extreme conditions at the time put four other areas in central America on alert for several days.
According to The New York Times the snowstorm caused damage of approximately 1.4 billion euros ($1.6bn).
January 18 saw the United Kingdom experience some of its most severe precipitations for decades. Storm Christoph brought heavy rains and widespread flooding to the country for three days.
Residents in England evacuated their homes as the snowfall followed caused travel disruptions, and closed roads.
Cyclone Ana struck Fiji at the end January, killing one. At least five people – including a three-year-old child – went missing.
Many were taken by surprise at the strength and intensity of the Category 2, even though it occurred just two months after an earlier cyclone had devastated parts of the archipelago.
Approximately 10,000 people sought refuge at emergency evacuation centers after flooding and rain damaged their homes and agricultural land.
Texas, United States
February was a cold month in Texas. Temperatures dropped to -13C (-8.6F) in some areas, leading to widespread electricity outages.
The unprecedented deep freeze resulted in the deaths of hundreds and millions of Texans.
Midland, the heartland of West Texas’ shale region, saw record snowfall and temperatures that reached a 32-year low. This caused businesses and offices to close.
March saw China experience its worst sandstorm since a decade. This brought down flights and shut down schools. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the storm also caused severe pollution and air quality problems in China.
The sandstorms spread to Inner Mongolia, into the provinces Gansu Shanxi Hubei, which surround Beijing.
Residents used masks, hairnets, goggles and masks to keep themselves safe from the choking air. Some landmarks such as the Forbidden city and the headquarters for state broadcaster CCTV were obscured by yellow smog.
Cyclone Seroja in April caused flash floods and landslides to hit Indonesia and East Timor, killing more than 150 people. It blocked roads, uprooted trees and made small communities mud-filled wasteland.
Numerous people were left homeless and many went missing. Nearly 10,000 people fled to shelters in neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
A smothering heatwave in June killed 569 people in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia over five days.
Authorities stated that the death toll represents a 195 percent rise from the 165 deaths expected to occur in the province within a five day period.
At the time temperatures soared in BC and other Canadian provinces and territories while a so-called “heat dome” – a weather system that traps in hot air – descended on the country’s west coast.
Experts say climate change is responsible for record-breaking heat.
Floods devastated low-lying areas in the region in July, causing massive flooding in western Germany and Belgium.
Germany’s worst natural disaster in decades claimed at least 170 lives.
More than 100,000 people lost power due to the floods, which caused extensive damage to their infrastructure and phone networks.
Firefighters in Italy battled more than 500 fires in August in Sicily and southern Calabria. At least two people died in the firefight.
A monitoring station in Sicily reported temperatures of 48.8C (119.8F) – levels some scientists believed could have been the highest in European history.
Greece was among the most affected by August’s wildfires that ravaged parts Southern Europe. The country’s second-largest island of Evia was evacuated as more than 580 fires swept through the region.
Wildfires stomped on forests in Evia, Peloponnese, Attica, and around Athens. Two people were reported to be killed and at least twenty others injured.
Greece saw one of the most severe heat waves in history, with temperatures exceeding 47C (117F) for more than a full week.
At least eight people were killed when wildfires ravaged parts of Turkey in July and August – namely the coastal provinces of Antalya and Mugla and in Tunceli, southeast Turkey.
Many villagers lost farm animals and property, while tourists and locals fled vacation resorts by boat.
The wildfires were the worst in at least 10 year, with nearly 95,000 hectares (2235,000 acres) being destroyed, compared to an average of 13,516 in the years 2008-2020.
Hurricane Ida ravaged the US East Coast in August with record-breaking rainfall days. It had hit the Gulf Coast as one the most powerful hurricanes to hit the US.
The storm claimed the lives of at least 45 people in Maryland and New York. Basement apartments were filled with water, rivers and streams, and roadways became car-swimming channels.
After Ida smashed a major transmission tower, more than one million homes in Louisiana and Mississippi were without power. New Orleans was plunged into darkness before power returned to some areas of the city a few days later.