The number of global extreme weather events has seen a "staggering rise" in the past 30 years, said the United Nations, and experts warn climate change is "supercharging” the problem, per The Associated Press.
Climate change is also causing more "compound events," NPR reported, which is when "climate change causes two extreme things to happen at the same time," according to an annual report by the American Meteorological Society. "The risk of extreme events is growing, and they're affecting every corner of the world," Sarah Kapnick, the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told NPR. Below is a chronological look at the extreme weather events unfolding in 2023.
The year began with the sixth-warmest January on record, averaging a temperature of 35.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the U.S., per the NOAA. This was due to a jet stream that spread warmer Pacific air over the whole country, along with high pressure that pushed storms west.
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There were also high levels of rainfall, making 2023's the third-wettest January on record. A record number of atmospheric rivers brought unprecedented rains to California, which was suffering from a drought. The state experienced 10 storms, which resulted in floods and landslides, as well as snowfall in the mountainous regions, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Midwest and South experienced a string of tornados. The Storm Prediction Center reported 168 preliminary reports of tornadoes, most of them in the South.
February began with an ice storm across Texas and the Midwest, as well as freezing temperatures across the Northeast. The Midwest also saw several tornados throughout the month, which is unusual for February, per the Post.
Later in the month, the U.S. experienced both extreme cold and unusually warm temperatures. Southern California saw winter storm conditions, inhibiting travel in the region, per CNN, while other parts of the country (especially across the southeast U.S.) saw almost spring-like temperatures, the Post reported.
Cyclone Freddy made renewed headlines in March, after first "walloping" Madagascar and Mozambique at the end of February, the Post wrote. The storm then made landfall in Mozambique for a second time on March 11. Lasting more than a month, Freddy was one of the longest-lived tropical cyclones on record, as well as one of Earth's most energetic storms. It killed at least 400 people in both Malawi and Mozambique and injured dozens more, according to Reuters.
Also in March, California's atmospheric river brought a "bomb cyclone" that left two people dead and more than 100,000 without power, per a Post report. Winds reached hurricane-level speed and affected 35 million people, added CNN, with the San Francisco Bay area facing the most severe weather. The storm was considered to be the "strongest March storm ever recorded in the Bay Area," according to ABC News.
Tornadoes tore through the South in March, killing at least 25 people in Mississippi and one person in Alabama, the AP reported. The National Weather Service reported winds between 166 and 200 miles per hour and gave the storm an EF-4 tornado rating.
A deadly storm system tore through the Midwest, South and mid-Atlantic from March 31 through April 1, bringing with it tornados that left at least 32 dead and many without power. By April 7, almost as many people had been killed by tornadoes in the first three months of 2023 as are usually killed by tornadoes in an entire year, CBS News reported.
Tornadoes continued throughout the month with an April 19 storm in Oklahoma that killed at least three people and was considered "large and extremely dangerous," according to McClain County Emergency Management. More than 17,000 residents were left without power in the central U.S., where unstable air led to storms with high winds across Texas and the South.
April was also marked by several heat waves in Asia and the Mediterranean. Several countries in Asia, including Bangladesh, India, Laos, and Thailand, saw some of their highest temperatures to date, which, in certain cases, reached over 113 degrees Fahrenheit, per BBC. In the Mediterranean, Spain and Morocco experienced record-breaking heat surpassing 101 degrees Fahrenheit, The New York Times reported. Both heat waves were attributed to climate change.
As summer inched closer, so did summer weather phenomena. Wildfires raged in Alberta, Canada, reducing air quality all over the world. While wildfires are common in the spring, this was an "unusually active" start to the season, the NOAA tweeted. Smoke from the fires soon traveled into the U.S., and several states — including Montana, Nebraska, Washington, and Wisconsin — issued air-quality warnings.
Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar and Pakistan in the middle of the month. Hundreds were estimated to have been killed, and hundreds of thousands were left homeless. Many of those affected were refugees or Rohingya Muslims, who were relocated to the region a decade ago.
Typhoon Mawar then unleashed its power on Guam, causing widespread power outages in the region. The storm was deemed a Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest to hit Guam in recent history.
June began as smoke from the Canadian wildfires blew across the U.S., starting in the Northeast before spreading to the South and West. The smoke raised the level of particulates in the air, causing hazardous air quality in several regions.
Later that month, India experienced a strong heat wave that led to several power outages and nearly 170 deaths. Heat waves are only declared in India if "temperatures are at least 4.5 C above normal, or if the temperature is above 45 C (113 F)," wrote the AP. Hospitals were over capacity and struggled with the loss of power and cooling systems.
June also saw tornados tear through Mississippi, causing one death and several injuries, per the AP. Close to 50,000 homes in the region were left without power.
Tropical storm Bret then formed in the Atlantic Ocean and moved toward the eastern Caribbean Sea in an “unusually early and aggressive start to the Atlantic hurricane season," the AP reported. "No June on record has had two storms form in the tropical Atlantic."
July 3 through 6 were the four hottest days on record globally, the hottest of which was July 6, when the global average temperature "climbed to an unprecedented 17.23°C (63.02°F),” per Axios. Various regions across the globe experienced heatwaves, including Europe, China, and parts of the U.S. The heat was magnified by El Niño and extremely warm oceans.
Climate change meanwhile amplified India's monsoon season, when intense flooding killed at least 100 dead, the Post reported. The influx of water also destroyed parts of highways and other infrastructure.
August was marked by extremely high global temperatures that led to a number of devastating disasters. The Hawaiian island of Maui, for instance, experienced a terrible wildfire that killed over 110 people. Experts blamed climate change for the destruction. “When the air is hotter it can hold more water vapor, so that means you get more water evaporating from plants, and that dries them out,” Jeff Masters, a meteorologist for Yale Climate Connections, told Time.
California was then inundated by Tropical Storm Hilary, the first such storm to hit the southern part of the state in 84 years, the AP reported. At the end of the month, Florida was hit by Category 3 Hurricane Idalia, which caused between $78 million and $371 million in agricultural damage.
September started off hot. Australia continued to see heatwaves that were "very uncommon for September," according to Reuters. The heat “also elevated the risks of fires with several regions given 'high' fire danger ratings, and authorities urging residents to prepare for bushfires.”
Later, Libya experienced torrential rainfall that caused devastating floods. The rains also passed through Greece and parts of Bulgaria and Turkey, the AP reported. Experts attributed the intensity of the floods to climate change. “Through these events, we are already seeing how climate change and human factors can combine to create compounding and cascading impact,” said Maja Vahlberg from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in the Netherlands.
Last but not least, Tropical Storm Ophelia thrashed the Eastern Seaboard at the end of the month, prompting strong winds and floods up and down the coast. Luckily, the storm was not as damaging as authorities originally feared, per The Washington Post.
This month saw heavy rainfall throughout the world. Following the New York City downpour, there was still a high risk of flooding. In addition, much of Northern Europe saw heavy winds and flooding. In the U.K., three people died due to the weather as Scotland and Denmark experienced dangerous storm weather. “This is not usual autumn weather,” Andy Page, the chief meteorologist of the U.K.’s weather forecaster the Met, told AP. “This is an exceptional event, and we are likely to continue to see significant impacts with the potential for further flooding and damage to properties.”
The Caribbean also saw Hurricane Tammy, the seventh of the Atlantic hurricane season. The Category 1 storm brought hurricane warnings to Guadeloupe, Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, and St. Kitts and Nevis, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The region experienced heavy winds and rainfall.
While November didn’t see as much extreme weather, it was still marked by high temperatures, rainfall and drought. Florida saw heavy rain leading to flooding and wind gusts of up to 60 miles. In addition, “much of this region already has saturated soils from recent rain,” The New York Times reported. “The ground acts like a sponge: If you keep adding water to it, eventually, it can’t hold anymore.”
In Asia, it was a record November for heat. “High temperatures ranged from the low 70s in Mongolia to the mid-80s in Russia and up to nearly 100 in the Philippines,” reported The Washington Post. “These temperatures were as much as 20 to 35 degrees above normal.” This is in line with the climate records hit this year and many regions seeing heat waves.
Editor's note: This article will be updated throughout the year.
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