Droughts, floods, fires, fish: 2020 saw record-breaking storms and other disturbing climate-linked phenomena across the globe.
From wildfires in Australia and California to record-breaking heat in Siberia, the year 2020 showed that the effects of climate change are here and here to stay.
Let’s start with the heat. The six hottest years in human history have all occurred since 2014, and the World Meteorological Organization announced that 2020 is tied with 2016 for the spot of the hottest year ever recorded. Last summer saw the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth in Death Valley, California.
Of course, growing average global temperatures will and are having myriad indirect effects that we are only beginning to understand. Wildfires in Australia and the U.S. dominated global headlines, destroying forests and homes and also killing up to a million birds. In the Arctic, hotter-than-ever temperatures caused millions of acres to combust. Scientists say “zombie fires” still smoulder under the tundra, waiting to re-emerge.
Other signs are slower and subtler. For example, last year new research found that Alaskan salmon are shrinking. Changing water temperatures in the Atlantic are probably to blame.
For your reference, here is a brief timeline of into other extreme weather and climate-linked phenomena of a disastrous 2020:
- January: Highest rainfall in more than 150 years caused flooding and casualties in Indonesia.
- January-March: Australian Bushfires caused severe damage across the nation from loss of lives to drastic economic damage. Most recently, Australia has recorded 2020 to be its fourth-warmest year on record with temperatures 1.15°C higher than average.
- April: Yunnan, China, saw its worst drought in 10 years.
- May: Cyclone Amphan in India had the largest economic impact of any cyclone in history, displacing 2 million people.
- May: Floods in Kenya and Uganda displaced 400,000 people.
- July: Monsoon floods left one third of Bangladesh underwater.
- August: Death Valley, California, recorded the highest temperatures in history followed by wildfires across the western U.S. just two weeks later.
- November: Typhoon Goni, one of the strongest on record, hit the Philippines.
- December: Hurricane ended with a record-breaking 30 named storms.
Of course, these are merely symptoms of a long-term trend of climate change that will mean worse and more frequent disasters in coming decades if the global community doesn’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But until then, as we head to 2021, keep an eye on the sky.