Summer of fire and floods
October 25, 2021 - From heatwaves and freezing weather in the U.S. to flooding in Europe and dust storms in China, a succession of interconnected natural disasters are sweeping the globe.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that it is an “established fact” that human greenhouse gas emissions are causing extreme weather events worldwide.
Specifically, the August-9 report blames humanity for nearly all the 1.1 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures observed since the Industrial Revolution of 1760-1840.
Canada’s temperature record was shattered on June 29 when Lytton in British Columbia recorded 49.6°C. The town was all but destroyed by wildfires a few days later.
Hurricane Elsa, on July 5, was the first to hit Barbados since 1955. Tropical storm Grace on August 16 poured misery on Haiti just two days after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. It then continued on to become a hurricane -- ripping through eastern Mexico, killing eight.
Also, in August, Hurricane Henri was the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in Rhode Island since Hurricane Bob in 1991. And Hurricane Ida caused devastation from Louisiana -- where it made landfall -- all the way up to New York and New Jersey in the northeast.
Elsewhere, Typhoon In-fa (Fabian) hit eastern China on July 25, causing record-breaking flooding and killing 300 people. Economic losses in Henan alone are estimated at US$13.8 billion.
In the U.K., torrential rain in July deluged London Underground stations. More flooding in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands resulted in 242 deaths.
In 2012, the IPCC adopted the term “compound events” to describe a combination of causes that overwhelm the capacity of an underlying system to cope. For example, a wildfire is made worse if it is preceded by a drought.
The IPCC report concludes that human activity makes extreme weather intense and frequent, notably rain, droughts, and tropical cyclones. As global warming accelerates, historically, unprecedented climatic events are likely to occur.