In pictures: Deadly extreme weather shocks the world
From the Mediterranean to Germany to California and beyond, dramatic pictures of the severe impacts of extreme weather have been dominating the news this summer. Is the climate crisis to blame?
Rainfall best ally for Spanish firefighters
A wildfire that burned through at least 7,780 hectares (30 square miles) in about a week and devastated forests in southern Spain was brought under control thanks to steady rains. The downpour helped the firefighters, who were backed by some 50 aircrafts. The blaze was one of the most difficult to combat in recent times in Spain. Some 2,600 people were forced to flee their homes.
Fierce flash floods in Europe
Unprecedented flooding — caused by two months' worth of rainfall in two days — has resulted in devastating damage in central Europe, leaving at least 226 people dead in Germany and Belgium. Narrow valley streams swelled into raging floods in the space of hours, wiping out centuries-old communities. Rebuilding the ruined homes, businesses and infrastructure is expected to cost billions of euros.
Europe on fire
While half of Europe is drowning, elsewhere areas are going up in flames: Large fires raged, particularly in Greece, Italy and Turkey. They have caused unforeseeable monetary damage, while thousands of people in Europe have lost their homes and their belongings.
Record heat in Italy
In addition to deadly wildfires, Italy also battled record heat temperatures, with the Italian Health Ministry issuing the maximum possible heat warning level for many cities. On the island of Sicily, 48.8 degrees Celsius (almost 120 degrees Fahrenheit) was measured on August 11 — a new European heat record. The heat could make existing fires worse, or lead to new ones.
Still out of control
Meanwhile, the Dixie Fire continues smoldering in California. It's California's largest fire on record, and among the most destructive in the state's history — it wiped the town of Greenville off the map. Although it's about 60% contained, the fire continues to burn two months in. Meanwhile, hot and dry conditions continue in the region, spreading fears of more fire.
Extreme rainy seasons
Earlier this summer, record floods also hit parts of India and central China, overwhelming dams and drains and flooding streets. The downpours have been particularly heavy, even for the rainy season. Scientists have predicted that climate change will lead to more frequent and intense rainfall — warmer air holds more water, creating more rain.
Greece melts down amid heat waves
As nations flood in northern Europe, Mediterranean countries like Greece were in the grip of several heat waves. In the first week of July, temperatures soared to 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit). Tourism hot spots like the Acropolis were forced to shut during the day, while the extreme heat also sparked forest fires outside Thessaloniki, which helicopters tried to douse.
Sardinia scorched by 'unprecedented' wildfires
"It is an unprecedented reality in Sardinia’s history," said Sardinia's Governor Christian Salinas of the ongoing wildfires that have scorched the historic central western area of Montiferru. "So far, 20,000 hectares of forest that represent centuries of environmental history of our island have gone up in ashes." Around 1,500 people were evacuated from the island by the end of July.
Heat records in the US, Canada
Intense heat is becoming more common, as seen in late June in the US states of Washington and Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Scorching temperatures under a "heat dome," hot air trapped for days by high pressure fronts, caused hundreds of heat-related deaths. The village of Lytton recorded a high of 49.6 Celsius (121 Fahrenheit) — and burned to the ground the next day.
Wildfires sparking thunderstorms
Heat and drought are fueling one of the most intense wildfire seasons in the West Coast and Pacific Northwest regions. Oregon's Bootleg Fire, which burned an area the size of Los Angeles in just two weeks, was so big it created its own weather and sent smoke all the way to New York City. A recent study said the weather conditions would have been "virtually impossible" without climate change.
Amazon nearing a 'tipping point'?
To the south, central Brazil is suffering its worst drought 100 years, increasing the risk of fires and further deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Researchers recently reported that a large swath of the southeastern Amazon has flipped from absorbing to emitting planet-warming CO2 emissions, pushing the rainforest closer to a "tipping point."
'On the verge of starvation'
After years of unrelenting drought, more than 1.14 million people in Madagascar are food-insecure, with some now forced to eat raw cactus, wild leaves and roots, and locusts in famine-like conditions. With the absence of natural disaster, crop failure or political conflict, the dire situation in the African nation is said to be first famine in modern history caused solely by climate change.
More people fleeing natural disasters
The number of people fleeing conflict and natural disasters hit a 10-year high in 2020, with a record 55 million people relocating within their own country. That's in addition to some 26 million people who fled across borders. A joint report released by refugee monitors in May found that three-quarters of the internally displaced were victims of extreme weather — and that number is likely to grow.