Extreme weather events: Apocalyptic weather disturbances are becoming the norm

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Extreme weather events: Apocalyptic weather disturbances are becoming the norm

Extreme weather events: Apocalyptic weather disturbances are becoming the norm

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Extreme cyclones, tropical storms, and heat waves have become part of the world’s weather events, and even developed economies are struggling to cope.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • March 21, 2023

    Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels have been heating the planet since the beginning of the Industrial Age. The heat trapped in the atmosphere doesn’t stay put but affects different areas randomly, resulting in extreme weather conditions worldwide. If global emissions aren’t cut back, this vicious cycle will continue to harm populations and economies for generations, particularly countries without resilient infrastructures.

    Extreme weather events context

    Summers have become synonymous with danger, as recurring extreme weather conditions caused by climate change tend to manifest the most during this season. The first is hotter and longer heatwaves, further worsened by another phenomenon called heat domes. In a high-pressure zone, hot air is pushed down and trapped in place, generating temperatures to rise across an entire region or continent. In addition, when the jet stream, made of fast-flowing air currents, is bent by a storm, it’s like pulling on one end of a skipping rope and watching the ripples travel down its length. These changing waves result in weather systems slowing down and getting stuck over the same places for days and even months. 

    Heatwaves contribute to the next extreme weather condition: long-term droughts. During the time between high temperatures, less rain falls, which then causes the ground to dry out faster. It won’t take as much time for the earth to heat up again, warming the air above and leading to even more intense heatwaves. Droughts and heatwaves then spark more devastating wildfires. Although these forest fires are sometimes caused by human activity, droughts can lead to less moisture on the ground and trees—the perfect fuel for a fast-spreading wildfire. Finally, hot weather increases the humidity in the air, leading to heavier and erratic rainfall events. Storms have become increasingly powerful, leading to relentless flooding and landslides.

    Disruptive impact

    The year 2022 saw extreme weather events pummel diverse regions across the world. For months, the Asia-Pacific was beset by heavy rains and higher temperatures, resulting in unpredictable weather patterns. If it wasn’t raining all the time, like in Pakistan, where eight monsoon cycles have left thousands of people homeless, it isn’t raining at all, leaving energy shortages as hydroelectric power systems struggle. In August, Seoul recorded its worst rainfall since authorities started keeping records in 1907. Droughts and torrential rains have caused businesses to close, slowed international trade, disrupted food supplies, and upended people’s daily lives in some of the world’s most populous nations and densely packed cities. 

    Despite their advanced facilities and natural disaster mitigation strategies, developed economies have not been spared by extreme weather. Floods devastated Spain and parts of Eastern Australia. Brisbane, for example, experienced 80 percent of its annual rainfall in just six days. July 2022 saw unprecedented heatwaves in the UK and some parts of Europe. Temperatures rose to over 40 degrees Celsius, resulting in water shortages and public transport shutdowns. Wildfires in France, Spain, and Portugal forced thousands to evacuate, resulting in hundreds of casualties. Scientists think it will become increasingly difficult to predict these erratic weather patterns, leading to countries being ill-prepared for weather conditions that they should never have experienced in their lifetimes.

    Implications of extreme weather events

    Wider implications of extreme weather events may include: 

    • Increased public sector investments in technological and infrastructure assets for natural disaster mitigation and relief programs, including protecting essential services from disruption.
    • More regular interruptions to public and private sector services (like access to retail storefronts and the availability of schools), as buildings and public infrastructures close due to excess rainfall, heatwave, and snowfall events.
    • Governments in developing nations may become unstable or even collapse in the face of regular and extreme weather events, especially if the cost and logistics involved with defending against and recovering from such events become greater than national budgets can accommodate.
    • Governments collaborating more regularly to ideate practical regional and global solutions to climate change, especially weather mitigation investments. However, climate politics will remain challenging and divisive.
    • More intense wildfires, resulting in the extinction and endangerment of many species and plummeting biodiversity.
    • Populations living on islands and in coastal cities preparing to move further inland as sea levels continue to rise and flooding and storm events worsens annually. 

    Questions to consider

    • How are extreme weather conditions affecting your country?
    • What can governments do to mitigate the harmful effects of extreme weather events?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: