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2020 climate disasters in 50 photos

  • 2020 climate disasters in 50 photos

    After nearly 20 years of mega-drought, California’s 2020 wildfire season has been the worst on record. More than 4 million acres of California have burned so far this year, with one fire reaching newly classified “gigafire” status as it surpassed 1 million acres. To the north, Oregon has experienced fires in places that rarely catch fire. Smoke blanketed the sky so thickly that some residents didn’t see blue for days.

    Another record has been broken: that of named tropical storms. After running out of the alphabetical list of names for tropical storms, new storms have been named after the Greek alphabet. Tropical storm Delta hit the Gulf Coast in early October; it will only take three more storms until 2020 is officially the most active hurricane season—which ends Nov. 30—on record.

    Those tropical storms have repeatedly battered U.S. coastal regions from the Gulf Coast to the far East Coast. Delta was Louisiana’s seventh storm to make landfall. Just six weeks earlier, Hurricane Laura was especially catastrophic, killing at least 77 people across its path of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the United States, where its landfall in Louisiana set the record of the most powerful storm in the state’s history.

    The Midwest experienced a rare group of storms called “derechos” in August, with hurricane-like conditions and winds that reached up to 112 mph in Iowa, where it pulled roofs from homes, toppled deep-rooted trees, flattened crops, cracked powerlines like toothpicks, and killed two people. Thousands across Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois were without power for days.

    All summer long cities across the United States experienced record-setting heat. Across the South and especially in Texas and Florida, cities experienced more days of extreme heat. California’s Death Valley hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit in August, the hottest the Earth has been in nearly a century.

    Between June and September in the United States, scientists at the National Centers for Environmental Information estimate that weather disasters have amounted to $16 billion in damages. In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlighted the widespread extreme weather events: “Recent climate changes and individual extreme events demonstrate both impacts of climate-related stresses and vulnerabilities of exposed systems,” its North American summary stated.

    While the United States has faced a particularly tumultuous year of climate disasters, the rest of the globe has experienced an equal share of destruction and weather-related grief, as these notable photographs will show.

    Devastating wildfires hit Australia, the Amazon, Siberian forests, Indonesia, and Argentina so far this year. Though the Pacific typhoon season has been uncharacteristically quiet in 2020, the typhoons that have hit the region have resulted in several deaths, flash flooding, and billions in damage. Parts of England were also inundated with flooding. Siberia, synonymous with frigid temperatures, hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit in June, accompanied by wildfires.

    Photos of nature and human habitats destroyed or dramatically altered due to climate disasters capture the catastrophic results better than words. Stacker has compiled 2020’s most notable weather into 50 photos.

    Read on to view photos of this year’s climate disasters, with most occurring while countries have been battling the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

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  • Unprecedented Australian wildfires

    Rural Fire Service firefighter Trevor Stewart views a flank of a fire on Jan. 11, in Tumbarumba, Australia. Cooler temperatures forecasted for the next seven days brought some reprieve to firefighters in New South Wales following weeks of emergency level bushfires across the state.

    Across Australia, 20 people died in the bushfires, including three volunteer firefighters. About 2,079 homes were destroyed this bushfire season, more than half of them since Jan. 1, and 830 homes were damaged.

  • Deadly flash floods in Jakarta

    A rescue worker helps his colleague as they navigate through a flooded neighborhood in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Jan. 2. Flooding caused by record-breaking amounts of rain left at least 17 people dead and tens of thousands displaced from their homes as the city, which is nearly 40% below sea level, prepared for continued rains.

  • Coastal erosion in the United Kingdom

    The effects of global warming have created storms and sea swells that have seen the East Coast of the United Kingdom lose approximately 3 feet of coast line each year. Holiday chalets abandoned due to coastal erosion wait to be demolished or taken by the sea in the village of Withernsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire on Jan 9. Landslips and cliff falls caused by waterlogged land and sea erosion has claimed hundreds of roads, homes, and holiday accommodations.

  • Deadly floods in Iran

    On Jan. 13, rain water covered the village of Dashtiari as floods ravaged Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan region. The severe downpours led to floods across the entire area, blocking nearly 900 roads, cutting off electricity in 877 villages, and damaging homes and irrigation canal networks.

  • Tidal flooding in Sulawesi

    Since a 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit the center of Tompe Village in the Sirenja District, Donggala Regency, Central Sulawesi Province, Indonesia, on Sept. 28, 2018, a decrease in land surface as deep as 6 feet—due to landslides and watershed degradation—has caused tidal floods and sea tides to enter residential areas every two weeks. On Jan. 12, local residents were forced to flee to higher ground during the flooding, only to return to their homes as the water receded.


  • Drought in Chile

    View of a dried area of the Penuelas Lake in Valparaiso, Chile, on Jan. 22. Flows of rivers and reservoirs have reached historic minimums in Chile. A severe drought hit the country’s central area, making local communities more vulnerable to face the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Storm Gloria in Spain

    Policemen and security members walk on a fallen bridge in Malgrat de Mar, near Girona, Spain, on Jan. 22, as Storm Gloria battered the country’s eastern coast. A winter storm, which killed at least 12 people, lashed much of eastern Spain for three days, cutting power, forcing the closure of schools, and severing road and rail links.

    National weather agency Aemet placed most of northeastern Spain on alert because of the storm packing wind gusts of over 60 mph, heavy snowfall, freezing rain, and massive waves that smashed into seafront promenades, and damaged shops and restaurants.

  • Ongoing drought causes severe food insecurity in Zimbabwe

    Josephine Ganye works in her wilting and stunted maize fields caused by the unrelenting heat and poor rainfall in southern Africa’s drought-prone Buhera, Zimbabwe, on Jan 28.

  • Catastrophic rain, landslides, and flooding in Brazil

    Wanderley Vieira attempts to clear up rubble following the overflow of the Da Prata stream due to torrential rains in Raposos, a metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, on Jan. 28. The death toll from days of intense storms and flooding in southeastern Brazil rose to 45, while 12 were injured, according to local civil defense officials.

  • Storm Dennis causes record-breaking floods in the United Kingdom

    A rainbow appears over flooded fields on Feb. 17, in the Wye Valley, near the hamlet of Wellesley, following Storm Dennis in Hereford, England. Storm Dennis was the second named storm to bring extreme weather to the area in a week and followed in the aftermath of Storm Ciara.


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