Floods, fires and record heat: Climate disasters multiply around the world

Two people pull a rope tied to a boat in rough waters near other vessels
Fishermen drag a boat damaged by Hurricane Beryl to moor it in port in Bridgetown, Barbados, on July 1, 2024.
(Ricardo Mazalan / Associated Press)
Share via

California is far from the only place in the grip of a sweltering heat wave. Climate catastrophes have been unfolding around the globe.

With nearly every month of 2024 having been the warmest on record, the world may be living through the hottest year yet.

One reason behind the extraordinary heat is a particularly powerful bout of El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon marked by warmer-than-usual waters in the tropical Pacific.

El Niño is now receding, but the human-made factors of global warming have not, and many scientists say that the world is now well on its way to blazing past the preferred allowance set by the Paris climate accord — 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial baselines.

Women wade through the muddy brown waters on a flooded street, near buses and storefronts
Women wade through a flooded street after heavy monsoon rains in Guwahati, India, on June 5, 2024.
(Anupam Nath / Associated Press)

“The climate continues to alarm us — the last 12 months have broken records like never before,” Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, said last month.

“Until we reach net-zero global emissions the climate will continue to warm, will continue to break records, and will continue to produce even more extreme weather events.”

Some recent lowlights:

Lethal heat in India

This year’s heat wave in India has killed more than 100 people over 3½ months, according to government data obtained by the Associated Press.

Among the dead were 33 polling workers administering the country’s general elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in early June, when temperatures in some cities reached as high as 116 degrees.

An elderly woman is carried on a stretcher into a hospital in India.
An elderly woman suffering from the heat is brought to a hospital in India’s Uttar Pradesh state.
(Rajesh Kumar Singh / Associated Press)

Families of the deceased will each receive about $18,000 from the government, Navdeep Rinwa, chief electoral officer for Uttar Pradesh state, told reporters.


Up to 75% of India’s workforce — around 380 million people — work in heat-exposed conditions, according to a recent World Bank report, but fewer than 10% of the country’s 300 million households own air conditioners.

In Lucknow, a city in northern India, temperatures this year have regularly climbed as high as 113 degrees, leading to power outages from the increased demand in electricity.

People sleeping on towels on a sidewalk as a white van drives by
Laborers sleep by the side of a road on a hot June night in Lucknow, India.
(Rajesh Kumar Singh / Associated Press)

“How can the electricity department justify depriving us of essential sleep?” resident Abhishek Singh told The Times of India in May.

“We have jobs to attend to, and the lack of rest will undoubtedly impact our mental well-being.”

China hit with heat, drought and floods

Broiling heat, droughts and flooding have threatened agriculture and energy supply in China. Beijing issued its third-highest heat warning late last month.


As temperatures reached 104 degrees in parts of the country’s north, areas in the south were hit by record-breaking rains, leading to the evacuation of thousands.

A barefoot woman, using a scarf to shield from the sun, sits on a bench.
A woman shields herself from the late June sun while browsing on her phone in a park in Beijing.
(Andy Wong / Associated Press)

Flooding has claimed at least 15 lives in the last month across Hunan, Anhui and Guangdong provinces, according to state media, and the government has issued alerts for additional flooding across the country.

Meanwhile, Yunnan province in the south is experiencing its worst drought in six decades, threatening the country’s supply of grains and hydropower.

Flooding in the U.S. swallows up homes

Flooding in several states across the Midwest has destroyed public infrastructure and swallowed up homes.

In May, torrential rainfall in the Midwest brought eight times the typical volume of rain seen in the region, overpowering flood defenses, submerging homes and leading to at least two deaths.


After the partial failure of a 114-year-old dam in Minnesota unleashed a flood that swept away a home perched on the banks of the Blue Earth River, local officials demolished a popular local pie store that they feared might be next.

A bird's-eye view of submerged farmland
Heavy rains in recent days have submerged farmland near Vermillion, S.D., on June 25, 2024. Flooding has devastated communities in several states across the Midwest.
(Jake Hoffner / Associated Press)

In South Dakota, where Gov. Kristi Noem declared an emergency, floodwaters stranded drivers and necessitated the rescue of nine people in Sioux Falls.

“This is probably the first time we’ve seen this kind of rainfall come this quickly,” Noem said at a news conference.

Flooding of the Big Sioux River caused a railroad bridge to Iowa to collapse.

In Iowa, where more than 1,000 residents have been displaced and entire neighborhoods evacuated, Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a disaster and requested federal assistance.


“Businesses are shuttered, main streets have been impacted,” she said at a news conference late last month. “Hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities were evacuated.”

A collapsed bridge lies in a river
The bridge over the Big Sioux River near North Sioux City, S.D., collapsed on June 23, 2024, after flooding in the Midwest.
(Josh Jurgens / Associated Press)

‘Heat dome’ over Mexico kills people, wildlife

Scorching heat in Mexico has already killed at least 125 people this year, according to the country’s health ministry.

A woman with white hair, in a dress with blue patterns, holds a small towel to her forehead while seated on a bed
Margarita Salazar wipes sweat off her brow inside her home amid high heat in Veracruz, Mexico, on June 16, 2024.
(Felix Marquez / Associated Press)

Although the immediate cause is a “heat dome” — a weather phenomenon in which high pressure traps hot air underneath it like a pot lid does to steam — climate scientists from the global collective World Weather Attribution have said that climate change has probably made Mexico’s heat wave much worse.

Last month, the country recorded its hottest day ever, with temperatures in the Sonoran Desert reaching 125 degrees. In the southeastern state of Tabasco, monkeys have been dropping dead from trees, presumably from heatstroke.


“We have never before experienced a heat wave this intense, this powerful, this pervasive and this persistent,” Maria Teresa Mendoza, a Veracruz resident, told the Associated Press.

Torrential downpours and wildfires devastate Chile

Several regions in Chile declared a state of “catastrophe” in June, as heavy rains battered homes and flooded roads in the latest extreme weather event to hit the South American country. About 2,000 homes were damaged and 60,000 lost power, while one person died.

The severe downpours and flooding followed an unusual cold snap that saw the coolest May since 1950, according to the country’s meteorological agency.

Two people, one in a yellow rain jacket, stand on a flooded street outside homes
Residents look out on a flooded street after heavy rains in Santiago, Chile, on June 13, 2024.
(Matias Basualdo / Associated Press)

This year, the country also experienced its deadliest wildfires on record.

Although wildfires often occur in February, experts said that rising temperatures and high winds exacerbated the fire’s spread, killing more than 130 people. The worsening heat has contributed to a years-long drought in central Chile that has affected the nation’s water supplies and crops.

Record temperatures roast the East Coast

As cities along the East Coast all grappled with record-breaking heat recently, temperatures in the nation’s capital hit 100 degrees — the first time they have reached triple digits since 2016.

Officials issued a heat emergency and activated Washington’s 134 cooling centers, which include swimming pools, public libraries and youth centers.

A man holds a hand to a young girl's face with a white-pillared building in the background
Andrea Di Miele, right, of Hoboken, N.J., puts water on his daughter, Sofia, 10, with the Lincoln Memorial behind them on June 21, 2024, in Washington. Temperatures the next day were forecast to reach 100 degrees.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

“Residents and visitors are encouraged to take precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses and to check on neighbors,” the mayor’s office said in a June 21 news release.

“Vulnerable populations, including older adults and those with physical and mental health conditions, should limit their time outdoors to no more than 20 minutes per hour.”

Temperatures in Baltimore reached 101 degrees, surpassing its previous daily high of 100 degrees in 1988.

And now the West is in the midst of an “extremely dangerous and record-breaking” heat wave, according to the National Weather Service, which said more than 130 million people in the U.S. were under heat alerts over the July 4 holiday.

Hikers die due to heat in Greece

Nearly a dozen tourists have died this year after going on hikes in Greece — a trend that the country’s authorities have attributed to the disorienting effects of heat.

A helicopter dumps water over hazy, smoke-filled landscape
Greek firefighters battle a wildfire north of Athens on June 29, 2024.
(Yorgos Karahalis / Associated Press)

“There is a common pattern,” Petros Vassilakis, the police spokesman for the southern Aegean, told Reuters. “They all went for a hike amid high temperatures.”

The heat, which reached 111 degrees in some areas, also contributed to more than 40 wildfires late last month. Wildfires are common in Greece but have intensified in recent years as climate change makes summers hotter and drier.

In Keratea, south of Athens, 140 firefighters have been mobilized to curb the latest blaze, which destroyed at least four houses, according to local media. In the north, residents were told to evacuate after another fire broke out in the region.

A holy site becomes a death trap

A total of 1,301 visitors to Mecca on the Hajj, a Muslim ritual that entails several days of religious tours, have died as temperatures hit a record 125 degrees in Saudi Arabia’s holy city.

“The Hajj has operated in a hot climate for over a millennium, but the climate crisis is exacerbating these conditions,” Carl-Friedrich Schleussner of the think tank Climate Analytics told Reuters.

A sea of people holding colorful umbrellas
Muslim pilgrims use umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they arrive to cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on June 18, 2024.
(Rafiq Maqbool / Associated Press)

With official packages for the Hajj costing $10,000 or more, the Saudi government has said that more than 80% of the dead were unlicensed pilgrims who “walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort.”


Many train for the pilgrimages, which involve walking up to nine miles in the open sun. But those without official licenses lack access to air-conditioned spaces or water.

Record-breaking Hurricane Beryl rips through the Carribbean

At least seven people have died after Hurricane Beryl cut a devastating swath through the Caribbean, capsizing fishing boats, downing power lines and ripping the roofs off homes.

“The situation is grim,” Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell said at a news conference Tuesday. “There is no power, and there is almost complete destruction of homes and buildings on the island. The roads are not passable, and in many instances they are cut off because of the large quantity of debris strewn all over the streets.”

People working on the upper level of a home with a damaged roof, with palm trees blowing
Residents begin to repair their home damaged by Hurricane Beryl, in Ottley Hall, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on July 2, 2024.
(Lucanus Ollivierre / Associated Press)

No storm in the Atlantic has achieved Category 5 status as early as Beryl. It weakened to a Category 3 by early Thursday after causing destruction and death in Jamaica and other eastern Caribbean nations.

Waters in the Atlantic have been much warmer than usual since last year, lending themselves to more powerful and rapidly escalating storms. And Beryl, according to experts, probably signals a particularly vicious season of tropical storms ahead.

A slew of boats leaning in different directions and bunched together
Hurricane Beryl took a toll on fishing boats as it passed through Bridgetown, Barbados, on July 1, 2024.
(Ricardo Mazalan / Associated Press)

Kim reported from Seoul and Yang from Taipei, Taiwan.