Yearender 2021: Top 10 extreme weather events that shocked the world

Extreme weather events linked to global warming brought misery to billions around the world in 2021. From wildfires, heatwaves, flooding to cyclones, every country was affected.

According to UN climate panel, global warming is dangerously close to spiralling out of control, saying that the world is already certain to face further climate disruptions for decades, if not centuries, to come.

The scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that the deadly heatwaves, gargantuan hurricanes and other weather extremes that are already happening will only become more severe.

Unless immediate, rapid and large-scale action is taken to reduce emissions, the report says, the average global temperature is likely to reach or cross the 1.5-degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) warming threshold within 20 years.

Here's a recap of the natural calamities that struck the world this year. 

Storm Filomena in Spain

In the first week of January, Spain was hit by one of its deadliest snowstorm since 1971 which killed scores.  The country's weather agency described it as “exceptional and most likely historic” conditions caused by Storm Filomena.

At the time, the extreme conditions put four other regions in the centre of the country on alert for days. According to the New York Times, the snowstorm caused damage estimated at about 1.4 billion euros ($1.6bn). 

(Photograph:AFP)

UK floods

On January 18, the United Kingdom saw some of its heaviest precipitations in decades. For three consecutive days, Storm Christoph brought significant rain and widespread flooding across the country.

Residents evacuated their homes in parts of England, while the snowfall that followed led to travel disruptions and road closures.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Germany floods

In July 2021, several European countries were affected by severe floods. Some were catastrophic, causing deaths and widespread damage. At least 242 people have died in the floods, including 196 in Germany.

German minister-president Malu Dreyer of the Rhineland-Palatinate state called the floods "devastating".  

(Photograph:Reuters)

Fiji cyclone

One of three tropical cyclones which hit Fiji at the end of January one after the other, tropical cyclone Ana killed one person, forced tens of thousands to evacuate and left millions of pounds of damage.

(Photograph:Agencies)

Greece wildfires

August began with Greece's most severe heat wave in decades and turned into one of the country's most destructive fire seasons.

Greece's fire department sent firefighters and aircraft to respond to a blaze that broke out on the country's second-largest island, Evia.

The country was scorched by several wildfires earlier this month amid its most severe heat wave in decades. 

The northeastern island of Evia was particularly hard-hit, with a major wildfire burning for more than 10 days in Evia's north.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Uttarakhand's rock-and-ice avalanche

On February 7, 2021, a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off releasing the water trapped behind the ice, creating an avalanche and deluge that quickly turned into flash floods in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district. Over 200 people died or missing.

 The glacier burst generated a sudden flood in the middle of the day in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga, and Alaknanda rivers — all intricately linked tributaries of the Ganga — triggering widespread panic and large-scale devastation in the high mountain areas.

(Photograph:PTI)

Sandstorm in China

In March, China witnessed its worst sandstorm in a decade, bringing flights to a halt and shuttering schools. The storm further worsened air quality and pollution levels across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The sandstorms spread from Inner Mongolia into the provinces of Gansu, Shanxi and Hubei, which surrounds Beijing.

City residents used goggles, masks and hairnets to protect themselves from the choking air, with landmarks including the Forbidden City and the distinctive headquarters of state broadcaster CCTV obscured behind yellow smog.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Canada heatwave

A smothering heatwave in June killed 569 people in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia over five days.

The deaths represent a 195 per cent increase from 165 deaths that would normally occur in the province across a five-day period, authorities said.

At the time temperatures soared in many Canadian provinces and territories while a so-called “heat dome” – a weather system that traps in hot air – descended on the country’s west coast.

Experts said climate change contributed to the record-shattering heat.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Turkey wildfires

At least eight people were killed when wildfires ravaged parts of Turkey in July and August – namely the coastal provinces of Antalya and Mugla and in Tunceli, southeast Turkey.

Many villagers lost property and farm animals, while locals and tourists fled vacation resorts in boats.

The wildfires were the worst of their kind in at least 10 years, with nearly 95,000 hectares (235,000 acres) burned down, compared with an average of 13,516 at the same point in the years between 2008 and 2020.

(Photograph:AFP)

East Australian floods

On March 18, 202, the eastern coast of Australia witnessed one the worst flooding in 60 years, which was described by as “one in 100 years” by the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The Australian government declared many parts of the east coast a natural disaster zone after the flooding rains forced 18,000 people to evacuate, in addition to over 1,000 flood rescues.

The floods occurred less than 18 months after Australia was affected by the Black Summer bushfires, impacting many towns still recovering from that disaster.

(Photograph:Reuters)

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