The Climate Disasters That Defined 2022

The Climate Disasters That Defined 2022

Widespread drought, deadly monsoons, and record-breaking temperatures swept the globe this year.

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Steven Bertke and his dog Roscoe are taken to dry land by St. Louis firefighters who used a boat to rescue people from their flooded homes on Hermitage Avenue in St. Louis on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Steven Bertke and his dog Roscoe are taken to dry land by St. Louis firefighters who used a boat to rescue people from their flooded homes on Hermitage Avenue in St. Louis on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Photo: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch (AP)

Countries all over the world saw one climate disaster after another this year.

There were relentless heat waves, deep freezes, and hurricanes so destructive they caused billions of dollars worth of damage. An ongoing drought in the U.S. West has communities restricting water use and desperate for new sources of freshwater. Officials and disaster response agencies have had to scramble to respond to compounding emergencies.

While weather disasters are a natural phenomenon, human-caused climate change is making them more frequent and more intense. Heat waves that are supposed to happen only every decade are now twice as likely to occur; extreme droughts are occurring 70% more frequently.

These were some of the major climate events of 2022, and the human impacts that followed.

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July heat waves cooked the United States

July heat waves cooked the United States

Kirstie Allemand arranges cardboard above an air conditioning unit in her window during soaring temperatures on July 28, 2022 in Ellensburg, Washington.
Kirstie Allemand arranges cardboard above an air conditioning unit in her window during soaring temperatures on July 28, 2022 in Ellensburg, Washington.
Photo: David Ryder (Getty Images)

July was a dangerously hot year all over the world, including the U.S.

Several place across the country saw extra-sweltering temperatures. Houston, Texas experienced its hottest July on record. July 11 broke a record for the hottest temperatures recorded in the city for that date, at 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius).

Other cities experienced record-breaking temperatures on July 24: Boston at 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and Providence, Rhode Island at 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.6 degrees Celsius), the New York Times reported.

Historically temperate parts of the country, like cities across the Pacific Northwest, weren’t spared. Portland, Oregon experienced six days over 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) that month. At least seven people in the area died as a result of the heat.

In late July, yet another heat wave put more than 100 million Americans under a heat warning or advisory.

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Heat waves roasted Argentina in January

Heat waves roasted Argentina in January

A cloudless view (right) and land surface temperature (left) of southern Argentina.
A cloudless view (right) and land surface temperature (left) of southern Argentina.
Image: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3

Ground temperatures soared to more than 129 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius) in Argentina this past January. The extreme heat sparked widespread blackouts throughout the southern part of the country. Air temperatures were scorching as well. During that week in mid-January, Buenos Aires experienced temperatures of 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit (41.5 degrees Celsius). This was the second-highest reading in the city in more than a century of records, the Buenos Aires Times reported.

These alarming temperatures briefly made Argentina the hottest place on the planet. The heat knocked out power to about 700,000 people in the metropolitan area, Reuters reported. The blackouts also affected the local water purification system, which prompted the water agency to ask residents to conserve water that week.

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A prescribed burn went wrong in New Mexico

A prescribed burn went wrong in New Mexico

Fire rages east of highway 518 near the Taos County line as firefighters from all over the country converge on Northern New Mexico to battle the Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon fires on May 13, 2022.
Fire rages east of highway 518 near the Taos County line as firefighters from all over the country converge on Northern New Mexico to battle the Hermit’s Peak and Calf Canyon fires on May 13, 2022.
Photo: Jim Weber/Santa Fe New Mexican (AP)

The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fire that blazed across New Mexico this spring was the result of a prescribed fire in early April. The Hermits Peak fire, intentionally set by the Forest Service, merged with the Calf Canyon fire by the end of April. In early May, tens of thousands of people in northern New Mexico had to evacuate their homes as the fire grew. And by mid-May, the fire was only 27% contained, Axios reported.

Around that time, the fire was declared the largest fire in New Mexico’s history. It burned over 341,000 acres, which is an area larger than the city of Los Angeles, the New York Times reported.

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Thousand-year floods pummeled Yellowstone

Thousand-year floods pummeled Yellowstone

A river flows through a missing section of a key bridge that leads to the tourist town of Fishtail, Montana. Friday, June 17, 2022.
A river flows through a missing section of a key bridge that leads to the tourist town of Fishtail, Montana. Friday, June 17, 2022.
Photo: David Goldman (AP)

Thousand-year floods shut down Yellowstone National Park this June after intense rainfall caused flooding and mudslides. The extreme conditions severely damaged roads and swept away a bridge. Some roads were completely covered in debris from the floodwaters and landslides. Videos showed an entire house in Montana collapsing and being washed away by the Yellowstone River, which flows through the park.

Conditions during that time were so dangerous that park workers had to evacuate visitors and shut down the park, NPR reported. This was the first time that all of the park’s entrances had to close since 1988, according to the Guardian.

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Landslides devastated a mountain community in Brazil

Landslides devastated a mountain community in Brazil

Alex Sandro Conde’s house stands next to the devastation caused by a landslide at Morro da Oficina, a hillside part of Alto da Serra, Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.
Alex Sandro Conde’s house stands next to the devastation caused by a landslide at Morro da Oficina, a hillside part of Alto da Serra, Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.
Photo: Silvia Izquierdo (Getty Images)

Unusually heavy rainfall this February meant disaster for Petrópolis, a city of 300,000 that sits in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro. According to the state’s fire department, more than 10 inches (25.8 centimeters) of rain fell over the area in just three hours. The rain trigged flooding and landslides that were so damaging, more than 500 emergency workers had to respond, Reuters reported.

Photos of the city showed entire homes reduced to rubble. Large objects like cars and trees were carried away by the brown floodwaters. 233 people died as a result of the tragedy, the BBC reported. Many of the area’s residents lived in homes that were built along the mountainside, making the area especially vulnerable to so much damage during the rain and mudslides that followed.

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India’s heat waves shocked the world

India’s heat waves shocked the world

India experienced sweltering temperatures of over 122 degrees Fahrenheit on April 12, 2022.
India experienced sweltering temperatures of over 122 degrees Fahrenheit on April 12, 2022.
Image: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3A imagery

India’s heat wave season began earlier than usual this year. The record-hot month of March blanketed much of the country with temperatures around 91.58 degrees Fahrenheit (33.10 degrees Celsius). A month later, temperatures spiked even higher. Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite showed that ground temperatures throughout some parts of the country increased to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees C) on April 12.

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Deadly flash flooding in St. Louis

Deadly flash flooding in St. Louis

Steven Bertke and his dog Roscoe are taken to dry land by St. Louis firefighters who used a boat to rescue people from their flooded homes on Hermitage Avenue in St. Louis on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Steven Bertke and his dog Roscoe are taken to dry land by St. Louis firefighters who used a boat to rescue people from their flooded homes on Hermitage Avenue in St. Louis on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Photo: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch (AP)

St. Louis was one of several U.S. cities that experienced thousand-year floods this summer. According to the National Weather Service, thunderstorms dropped about 2 inches of rain per hour over the St. Louis metropolitan area on July 26.

The flash floods that followed inundated the city. Dozens of people who were stranded by the floods had to be rescued by emergency responders. One section of the city was under 7 feet of water, trapping residents in their homes, the St. Louis Police Department tweeted in late July. Emergency responders also pulled someone out of a flooded car in an area that was covered by more than 8 feet of water, the New York Times reported.

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Wildfires and heat waves raged across Europe this summer

Wildfires and heat waves raged across Europe this summer

Men on motorcycles watch a fire at Penteli, Greece, on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Men on motorcycles watch a fire at Penteli, Greece, on Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis (AP)

People in more temperate areas of Europe were woefully unprepared for the wildfires and record-breaking temperatures this summer. More than 2,800 more people aged 65 and older in England died than usual during that time, according to an October analysis from the U.K. Health Security Agency and the Office for National Statistics. This turned out to be the highest excess death toll caused by high temperatures in almost 20 years, The Guardian reported.

But even regions that are accustomed to hot summers struggled. Spain alone recorded 1,047 deaths linked to record-breaking heat from July 10 to July 19.

The dry and hot conditions also sparked wildfires all over the European Union. In a single week in early July, wildfires cropped up in Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Cities across Italy were also on alert from a series of wildfires. Hundreds of residents in Tuscany had to quickly evacuate after a wildfire caused gas tanks to explode in late July. According to the European Forest Fire Information System, more than 1.9 million acres burned throughout the European Union from the start of this year to November, France24 reported.

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Floods formed a lake in the middle of Pakistan

Floods formed a lake in the middle of Pakistan

People walk through floodwater on October 18, 2022 in Johi, Pakistan. Nearly one-third of Pakistan was deeply affected by flooding which hit the country in 2022.
People walk through floodwater on October 18, 2022 in Johi, Pakistan. Nearly one-third of Pakistan was deeply affected by flooding which hit the country in 2022.
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

This year’s monsoon season devastated Pakistan. Communities throughout tropical zones around the world are accustomed to the yearly rainy season, but months of torrential downpours strained infrastructure and emergency services.

By September, satellite images captured how the floodwaters formed a large lake in the country. Major roads and bridges were washed away, making it difficult for emergency workers to help stranded people. Some communities had to set up camp on roadsides near their sunken homes in hopes that they could eventually go back, the UN Refugee Agency said.

As of October, which is the end of the monsoon season, millions of people in the country were displaced, over 1,500 people had reportedly died, and about 2 million homes were destroyed, Yale Climate Connections reported.

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Hurricane Fiona’s trail of destruction from the Caribbean to Canada

Hurricane Fiona’s trail of destruction from the Caribbean to Canada

A house lays in the mud after it was washed away by Hurricane Fiona at Villa Esperanza in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.
A house lays in the mud after it was washed away by Hurricane Fiona at Villa Esperanza in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022.
Photo: Alejandro Granadillo (AP)

Tropical storm Fiona formed in the Atlantic in mid-September and grew into a hurricane by September 18. It flooded communities across several Caribbean nations including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Guadeloupe. The flash flooding and strong winds knocked out all of Puerto Rico’s electric grid and shut down running water for more than half of the island.

Fiona traveled up to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada as a post-tropical cyclone at the end of September. The storm made landfall over the coast with sustained wind speeds of 165 miles per hour (265 kilometers per hour), according to the Canadian Hurricane Centre. Coastal communities experienced power outages, destroyed homes, and flooding.

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Hurricane Ian wrecked Florida and flooded Coastal North Carolina

Hurricane Ian wrecked Florida and flooded Coastal North Carolina

A high water vehicle with responders drives through a flooded neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in North Port, Florida, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022
A high water vehicle with responders drives through a flooded neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian in North Port, Florida, Monday, Oct. 3, 2022
Photo: Gerald Herbert (AP)

Hurricane Ian formed as a tropical storm in the Caribbean in late September and quickly grew. By the time the storm hit Florida’s Gulf Coast, it had sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. It was a strong category 4 storm, and one of the strongest to make landfall over the continental U.S.

More than 2.5 million households across Florida were without power on September 29. President Joe Biden declared a “major disaster,” which opened up federal funding for communities across nine counties.

By September 30, the storm moved north over the South Carolina coast. Hurricane Ian was a category 1 storm at the time and cut off power for about 200,000 customers in the state. Piers along the coast were also damaged from the flooding and strong winds.

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Longtime drought has completely dried up a Peruvian lagoon

Longtime drought has completely dried up a Peruvian lagoon

An emaciated sheep walks on the dry bed of the Cconchaccota lagoon in the Apurimac region of Peru, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.
An emaciated sheep walks on the dry bed of the Cconchaccota lagoon in the Apurimac region of Peru, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.
Photo: Guadalupe Pardo (AP)

Extreme drought in Peru has completely dried up the Cconchaccota lagoon in the Apurimac region. The dry conditions come after three repeated La Niña patterns.

This has been the driest period Southern Peru has experienced in almost a half-century, Al Jazeera reported. The rainy season should have begun in September, but it has barely rained at all. Residents have had to set bowls outside of their homes to collect the little rainwater that the area received. Many of the communities in the Southern Andes are Indigenous, and residents rely on farming. They’ve suffered significant livestock and crop losses from the intense dry conditions and are in desperate conditions.

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