On their own, each of the numerous weather calamities that befell the world in 2020 would be a crisis. But hurricane, floods, and wildfires intersected with the pandemic in ways that tested emergency response systems in ways they haven’t before. Piling the climate crisis on top of a public health crisis not only put evacuees in danger of contracting covid-19 while simultaneously losing everything they owned, it also strained disaster response resources and almost certainly contributed to ongoing disaster fatigue already plaguing first responders.
This year will leave indelible scars on the landscape for years or even decades to come. The impacts will linger even longer in the atmosphere, where carbon dioxide released from fires will stay for a century or more.
To be sure, the human toll of the weather disasters that befell us this year is very real, but the best way to truly grasp the monumental scope of what’s happening to the planet is from space. As we prepare to bid good riddance to 2020, these are the moments that stood out for the damage they’ve done to society and the biosphere.