1/ David McNew // Getty Images
A startling announcement about climate change had people around the world chilled to the bone.
Australian think thank Breakthrough - National Centre for Climate Restoration released a report in May 2019 claiming that if without major changes to human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, the world could see the beginnings of the end of civilization as we know it as soon as 2050. Breakthrough's report further states the need to address climate change immediately—or risk being set on a course that can't be changed.
Experts have pointed to the potential for mass die-outs from starvation due to droughts, rising sea levels that have already caused several once-populated islands to be abandoned, an expansion of disease, and the already-in-motion mass refugee crisis due to dwindling agriculture and lack of access to fresh water.
The effects of climate change (and the role humans play with the global rate of greenhouse gas emissions) appear to be growing and influencing massive weather complications that devastate populations around the world. 2019 has already seen a spike in major weather events compared to previous years, from rare fire tornadoes in California and Arctic browning to snow in Hawaii and record numbers of tornadoes in the United States.
Stacker looked at weather data over the past year and compiled some of the most outrageous and rare weather events that occurred. Below, Stacker explains what happened, how it happened, and what the effects were—including the amount of damage or deaths when they happened.
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2/ Justin Sullivan // Getty Images
Fire tornadoes are extremely rare; only one other has been scientifically recorded in history. It happens when increasing heat from a fire combines with turbulent air, causing a huge rotating inferno—and during the Carr Fire, it reached EF-3 tornado strength. The fire tornado left a damage path of about 3,300 feet.
3/ Justin Sullivan // Getty Images
It wasn't just smoke that pushed the Bay Area's air quality to worst-in-the-world status—it was also the small particles in the smoke because it was a wood fire, which is often a problem after wildfires. Those particles go deep into your lungs and exacerbate pre-existing heart and lung problems. Thanks to the air quality, which stayed poor until weather patterns changed and pushed the smoke back out of the region, schools were canceled, people were informed to stay inside, and many chose to wear medical masks or scarves covering their faces.
4/ Vadim Petrakov // Shutterstock
In Norway's Arctic, researchers observed two weather events: a frost drought and extreme winter warming. The frost drought killed off evergreen vegetation and turned it brown, and the warming turned some plants dark red as part of a stress response. The Arctic browning shows not only that plants aren't able to keep up with climate-change extremes, but also that they do less to clean the air; the brown plants absorbed much less carbon dioxide than normal.
5/ Johnny Giese // Shutterstock
About 23,000 spectacled flying foxes, also known as spectacled fruit bats, died in Australia's extreme heat wave—killing off about a third of that species in the country. The temperature, which hit 108 degrees, hadn't been that high since Europeans first settled the continent.
6/ Scott Olson // Getty Images
The polar vortex that blew across the Midwest in January 2019 and killed eight people didn't just freeze Chicago with record-breaking cold temperatures, but also Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and other spots near the Great Lakes. Chicago last had temperatures that low in 1985, though they could become much more common as climate change warps the atmosphere in the arctic that keeps those extreme temperatures at bay. With those temperatures, you can get frostbite in just five minutes; flights and school sessions were canceled and people were told to stay somewhere warm.
7/ STR/AFP // Getty Images
In the coal-mining region of Siberia, snow doesn't fall white—it falls black, thanks to coal dust kicked up from open-pit mines. The region has 2.6 million people, and life expectancy there is several years lower than the national average in Russia, thanks to the toxic compounds in the coal dust. The region also has higher rates of cancer, cerebral palsy, and tuberculosis.
8/ Jason Jacobs // Flickr
Kona lows are seasonal cyclones that hit the Hawaiian islands during winter, thanks to winds coming from the west—or “kona” direction. This particular storm saw wind speeds as high as 191 mph and snow. One person died, and tens of thousands lost power.
9/ ATTA KENARE/AFP // Getty Images
Across 25 provinces in Iran, residents dealt with enough rain to match half the annual average—but in one day. The unprecedented storms and flooding lasted into April and killed about 70 people, injuring hundreds more.
10/ Mario Tama // Getty Images
Throughout May, the U.S. experienced a historic amount of tornadoes—530 confirmed, with one 12-day stretch averaging 27.5 per day, killing about 30 people. The previous record for tornadoes in consecutive days was set in 1980. Scientists have noted that, for an undetermined reason, the U.S. is getting less days where tornadoes spawn overall, but the amount of tornadoes occurring on those days has been increasing.
11/ Jevgenij Kulikov // Shutterstock
Although a jet stream that moves in weird ways isn't particularly unusual, high intensity of the movement is strange. These severe kicks to the polar jet stream cause all sorts of dramatic weather problems—mostly in winter, though this year was the first time it happened in May since 1977—and scientists believe declining Arctic ice, thanks to human-caused climate change, is to blame.