As the world staggers through another summer of extreme weather, experts are noticing something different: 2021′s onslaught is hitting harder and in places that have been spared global warming’s wrath in the past.
Wealthy countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany, and Belgium are joining poorer and more vulnerable nations on a growing list of extreme weather events that scientists say have some connection to human-caused climate change. “t is not only a poor country problem but iit’salso now very obviously a rich country problem,”” said Debby Guha-Sapir, founder of the international disaster database at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. “”hey (the rich) are getting whacked.
Killer floods hit China, but hundreds of people drowned in parts of Germany and Belgium, not used to being inundated. Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. had what climate scientist Zeke Hausfather called “”cary””heat that soared well past triple digits in Fahrenheit and into the high 40s in Celsius, shattering records and accompanied by unusual wildfires. Now southern Europe is seeing unprecedented heat and fire.
Peak Atlantic hurricane and U.S. wildfire seasons are only just starting.
When what would become Hurricane Elsa formed on July 1, it broke the last yyear’srecord for the earliest fifth named Atlantic storm. Colorado State University has already increased its forecast for the number of named Atlantic storms — and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will update its season outlook on Wednesday.
For fire season, the U.S. West is the driest it has been since 1580, based on soil moisture readings and tree ring records, setting the stage for worsening fires if something ignites them, said UCLA climate and fire scientist Park Williams.
What happens with U.S. hurricane and fire seasons drives the end-of-year statistics for total damage costs of weather disasters, said Ernst Rauch, chief climate and geoscientist for insurance giant Munich Re. But so far this year, he said, wealthier regions have seen the most significant economic losses.
But when poorer countries are hit, they are less prepared, and their people ccan’tuse air conditioning or leave, so tthere’smore harm, said Hausfather, climate director of the Breakthrough Institute. While hundreds of people died in the Pacific Northwest heatwave, he said the number would have been much higher in poor areas.