Extreme weather patterns renew focus on climate change

Data suggests extremes of temperature, rainfall or drought are on the rise


Rosie Carrow

Rosie Carrow

Content writer

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The summer headlines were dominated by extreme weather and related phenomena. Soaring temperatures and drought in many parts of the world led to runaway fires, resulting in the loss of crops, property and life. Other regions experienced floods.

California suffered the worst fires in its history. They engulfed hundreds of thousands of acres across the state and destroyed more than 100 homes.

In Attica, Greece, the European heatwave triggered wildfires that killed almost 100 people.

Fires in Britain’s Peak District burned in a drought-stricken area of moorland for more than three weeks, with the military being called to assist firefighters.

In Kerala, India, extreme rain triggered flooding and landslips, with scores of fatalities.

These events have again focused attention on climate change and the extent to which weather extremes can be expected to occur with increasing frequency.

The following charts indicate a clear increase in such extremes. But, as academics and other commentators point out, it is difficult to exclude from this data the effects of increased reporting.

These charts are sourced from the US climate data body The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Emergency Events Database, a Belgium-based organisation founded in the 1980s with backing from the World Health Organization.

Extreme weather on the rise

Number of events globally


Average fall and rise in global land and ocean temperatures


Number of extreme weather events causing at least $1 billion in economic losses

Source: NOAA

A nightmare for some farmers - but not all

The severe drought means livestock farmers in Britain have had to feed cattle with supplies normally set aside for winter feeding, storing up potential problems for later in the year.

But some farmers are delighted by the dry, hot weather: Britain’s growing army of wine producers. Producers say 2018 will produce the best quality grapes and highest yields in memory. WineGB, British producers’ representative body, says 6,200 acres in England and Wales are now under vines. Almost six million bottles were produced in 2017 – a 31% increase on 2015.

Increased wine production in the south of England has been attributed to rising temperatures, but yields are still low compared to hotter climates. Focus is now moving away from sparkling wines, traditionally regarded as the best of the British production, to still wines, which have a shorter production time.

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Rosie Carrow

Rosie Carrow

Content writer

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