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Record heat drove more wildfires, droughts and floods in 2023

A new report by the Global Water Monitor Consortium and researchers at the Australian National University reveals worsening climate crisis symptoms and cycles. 

landscape photography of shack near leafless tree

Severe storms, floods, megadroughts and extreme bushfires were all driven by record heat waves across the globe. Countries such as Canada, Greece, Thailand, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, and Libya were among those worst effected.

Low rainfall and high temperatures compounded conditions across South America, the Horn of Africa and Mediterranean coastline, among other regions, exacerbating persistent drought conditions. Overall damage to major forest regions – including the Great Northern boreal and Amazon – as a result of extreme weather was extensive as a result. 

‘Some areas around Cairns [Australia] recorded more than 800 millimetres of rain. The torrential rains caused widespread flooding. That was because the cyclone moved much slower than expected,’ said lead author Professor Albert Van Dijk of the Australian National University. ‘Recent cyclones and intensive storms in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia should not be seen as isolated freak events but part of a global pattern that was quite clear in 2023. 

‘Warmer sea temperatures fuelled those freak behaviours, and we can expect to see more of these extreme events going forward… A total of 77 countries experienced the highest average annual temperature in at least 45 years,’ he continued. ‘Globally, we’re seeing an increase in the frequency and intensity of rainfall events and river flooding. But at the same time, there are also more frequent and faster developing droughts, or ‘flash droughts’. That can cause crop failure and destructive wildfires in a matter of weeks or months. With the global food challenge, biodiversity crisis and an extremely urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, these droughts and wildfires are among our greatest global threats.’

You can read the full Global Water Monitor report here

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Image: Timothy Eberly

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