The undeniable link between weather disasters and climate change
What is the link between climate change and the natural disasters we are currently experiencing?
— Magdalena, Maryland
By many measures, 2020 has been disastrous. Hurricanes in the Atlantic are so numerous that there are not enough letters in the Latin alphabet to name them all. Fires in California torched more than 4 million acres, smashing the state’s record for land burned in a single season. In the first nine months of this year, at least 188 people have been killed in a record-tying 16 weather disasters that cost $1 billion or more. The nation now spends almost 10 times as much responding to and recovering from natural events as it did in the 1980s. And that’s just the United States. Don’t forget the bush fires in Australia, floods in Central Africa and the powerful Cyclone Amphan, which killed dozens of people in India and Bangladesh.
2020 has also been hot. During one of the Northern Hemisphere’s warmest winters on record, the Great Lakes never froze, Russian officials in Moscow had to import fake snow for the holidays, and the fire season in parched California began months ahead of schedule. Temperatures soared in the Siberian Arctic, melting permafrost and fueling devastating, carbon-spewing fires. In Baghdad, where the mercury hit an unprecedented 125 degrees Fahrenheit in July, vegetation withered and metal door handles burned to the touch. Heat waves have smashed records from Phoenix to Hong Kong. Earth overall is on track to have its second-hottest year on record.
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