Extreme weather: storm clouds forming

Impacts of climate change:
Hurricanes, heatwaves, storm surges

Climate change leads to more extreme weather. Heatwaves, like we’ve been experiencing, could become the new norm. And we're likely to see more intense tropical cyclones like Hurricane Florence.

Levels of planet-warming greenhouse gases have rocketed in the past 100 years. This is largely due to humans burning coal, oil and gas, and cutting down forests.

If we don't stop doing these things, the planet will continue to heat up. Each degree of warming will bring more extreme weather.

Let's take a look at some of the most severe impacts of climate change.

Tropical cyclones

More destructive hurricanes and typhoons

These fierce storms produce violent winds (74 miles per hour or more), dangerous waves, torrential rain and flooding.

Hurricanes and typhoons are the same thing. They're both tropical cyclones that form over warm ocean waters near the equator.

Human-caused global warming is raising sea levels and ocean temperatures. These conditions are likely to create more intense tropical cyclones – carrying higher wind speeds and more rain.

We can stop extreme weather becoming the new norm.

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Higher storm surges

A storm surge happens when water is pushed towards the shore by strong hurricane winds. If the surge hits normal high tide, it can rear up to 20 feet or more – causing extreme flooding in coastal areas.

Climate change is likely to lead to higher storm surges as sea levels rise.

Higher sea levels give storm surges a higher starting point – increasing their size and reach when they make landfall.

The dangers of hurricanes

Intense hurricanes have increased in the past few decades, threatening more people. Dangers include: flying debris, flooding and disruption to vital services like healthcare.

Hurricanes range from (1) a risk of minimal damage to (5) catastrophic. Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in 2017, was a category 5. It's estimated to have killed over 4,600 people. Maria was one of 3 major Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in the same year.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused a storm surge that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in the New Orleans area.

Global warming is likely to result in more devastating hurricanes.

Severe flooding

Greater risk of flooding

Global warming in our region means more downpours of rain, snow, hail or sleet – or as the scientists say "the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events in North America and Europe has likely increased".

Climate change will make flooding in the UK worse. It's already a huge problem. Over the past decade, severe flooding and record-breaking rainfall have inflicted misery across the nation.

And the UK Environment Agency has warned that we're going to get more intense bouts of flooding.

Flooded homes and businesses

Recent floods in the UK have left communities struggling to cope.

8,000 homes and businesses were flooded in summer 2012 after relentless heavy rain. In 2013-2014, we suffered the wettest winter for 250 years – 11,000 homes were flooded. And December 2015 was the wettest month on record. It added to a miserable winter season for the north of England – bringing flooding to 17,000 homes, shops and other buildings.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the government to defend the UK from floods and extreme weather.

Heatwaves

What is a heatwave?

Heatwaves are long periods of unusually hot weather and humidity.

They can lead to widespread drought and increase the risk of wildfires. Heatwaves harm crops and wildlife, and are really deadly to humans. And they make air quality worse. Air stagnates so pollution sticks around in the environment instead of being replaced with fresh air.

The 2018 heatwave was made more than twice as likely by climate change, scientists have found. Countries need to urgently reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to restrict the likelihood of more intense heatwaves.

How do heatwaves affect people?

Extreme heat and high levels of air pollution are dangerous. People with heart conditions, asthma and severe allergies are most at risk.

2,000 people died during the 2003 UK heatwave. Unless the government takes urgent action on climate change, heat-related deaths will become a summer norm – with 7,000 people a year set to lose their lives by 2050.

Further afield, in Moscow a heatwave claimed over 14,000 lives in 2010. Pollution levels were 5 times greater than normal. 35,000 people were hospitalised during the Japanese heatwave in July 2018.

Feeling the heat? Let's tackle climate change.

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