By most metrics, 2021 was a rough year. But perhaps the most jarring one has been the weather.
You name it, 2021 had it. Hurricanes causing billions in damage, drought turning lakes into sheets of dust, fires in every corner of the globe, extreme cold, extreme heat, heavy rain, the list goes on. Some locations were hit repeatedly by different maladies, while others saw weird weather completely out of season, like this month’s tornadoes.
It’s become impossible to disentangle the weather from our rapidly changing climate. The atmosphere is supercharged for heavy rain. Background heat turns dangerous heat deadly. Sea level rise allows storm surge to be more destructive. Simply put, this is not the weather of the past. Nor will it be the weather of the future if we fail to meaningfully draw down emissions; those heat waves, hurricanes, and rainstorms will be all the more violent.
To understand the stakes, take a look at what this year’s charred, soaked, and overheated planet looked like from space.