Natural Disasters

Climate change worsened extreme weather events in 2022: State of the Global Climate report

More such events likely with rising greenhouse gas emissions and approaching El Niño

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Friday 21 April 2023
Pakistan saw devastating floods in August, which killed around 1,700 people and affected 33 million people. Photo: iStock

Rising global temperatures in 2022 contributed to more frequent and intense extreme weather events all around the world, according the State of the Global Climate 2022 report released April 21, 2022 by the World Meteorological Organization.

These extreme weather events included heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, cold extremes, heavy rain, flooding, tropical cyclones and other extreme storms such as tornadoes in the United States. 

Many of these events have also been attributed to climate change due to human-emitted greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which are also at a record high. 

Read more: 2022 saw record-breaking weather events despite 3-year run of La Niña: State of the Global Climate report

China suffered from its most extensive and long-lasting heatwave on record, which extended from mid-June to the end of August, according to the report. The heatwave came amid the country’s hottest and second-driest summer season on record, which was warmer than the previous record year by 0.5 degrees Celsius. 

There were 366 locations around the country that broke their highest temperature record during the period. Southern regions of China suffered from a 20 to 50 per cent rainfall deficit. The severe drought led to the Yangtze river drying up and reaching its lowest level on record at Wuhan. 

Europe also suffered from severe heat events in all its summer months. The heatwaves reached their peak in mid-July when the United Kingdom recorded a maximum temperature of 40°C for the first time. 

A study by a group of scientists at World Weather Attribution (WWA) said climate change had made this occurrence 10 times more likely. Temperature records also broke in Germany and Sweden in July. 

In the previous month, Urbe (Rome) had recorded 40°C. Other countries in the Mediterranean region also suffered from the heat during the summer.

Tunisia recorded its hottest June, while a new temperature record of 49.1°C was set at Smara (Morocco) on July 10. The Mediterranean Sea also suffered from marine heatwaves from March to December. 

Exceptionally high temperatures were also recorded in Antarctica in March 2022 where two of the sites — Dome C and Vostok — recorded temperatures that were 35°C above the average for March and 15°C above the previous record years. 

The heatwaves were followed by drought in most of the European countries, with water levels in many of the major rivers such as the Rhine, Loire and Danube, falling to record low levels. Germany, France, the UK and Italy recorded their driest periods in almost 50 years. 

Read more: State of the Global Climate report: 58% of ocean suffered at least one marine heatwave event in 2022

The ongoing intense drought in the Horn of Africa also intensified with the fourth and fifth consecutive poor rainfall seasons in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. Droughts also continued in Chile in South America and the western and southern states in the United States. 

The heatwaves in India and Pakistan in the spring and summer seasons of 2022 brought down the yield of wheat crops, significantly pushing the Government of India to ban wheat exports from the country. A WWA study showed these heatwaves to have become 30 times more likely due to climate change. 

The summer heatwaves in Pakistan were followed by devastating floods in August, which killed around 1,700 people and affected 33 million people. The flood waters covered 9 per cent of the total geographical area of the country, showed satellite imagery. 

In Nigeria, flooding occurred all through the rainy season, which was exacerbated in October due to very heavy rainfall, causing 603 deaths. 

Storms and tropical cyclones had a particularly drastic impact on the island country of Madagascar. From the middle of January to early February, three tropical storm systems battered Madagascar with extremely heavy rains. 

The rainfall started with an inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in mid-January, which is the region where the northeast and southwest trade winds converge to form a band of clouds with rainfall and occasional thunderstorms near the equator. 

The ITCZ gave way to two back-to-back tropical storm systems — the first tropical storm Ana in the last week of January and then cyclone Batsirai in the first week of February. 

Most of the damage caused by the storms was due to heavy rainfall, which has been partly attributed to global warming by WWA.

The havoc did not just stop there. Just after Batsirai, there was tropical storm Dumako that impacted Madagascar on February 15 and tropical cyclone Emnati that made landfall in the country on February 23.

February 2022 was the first month since 1988 when three storms made landfall in Madagascar in a single month, according to the US federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

There were a total of six tropical weather systems (tropical storm Gombe on March 8 and tropical storm Jasmine on April 26) in Madagascar, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

These were separate from the ITCZ and affected the island country between January and April, causing 214 deaths and affecting 0.96 million people. 

Read more: Greenland, Antarctica lost 7,560 billion tonnes of ice sheet mass in last 3 decades, accounted for quarter of global sea-level rise

Hurricane Fiona, which tracked up to Canada, became one of the strongest storm systems to make landfall in the country. A severe storm known as Derecho also affected the Balearic Islands (Spain) across Corsica (France), Italy, Slovenia, Austria and Czechia, with a total track distance of 1,600 kilometres. 

“The system reached its peak severity over Corsica, where wind gusts of 225 km per hour were recorded, the strongest reliably observed wind gust on record for metropolitan France,” said the WMO report. 

All these extreme weather events have happened in a world that was 1.15°C warmer than the pre-industrial average. As the greenhouse gas emissions keep rising and with the looming El Niño in the coming summer, more such events will become likely.  

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