Here Are 6 of the Summer of 2018’s Worst Weather-Related Nightmares
Scott Pruitt may very well go down in history as the worst administrator in the 48-year history of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nominated by President Donald Trump in February 2017 and confirmed by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate in a 52-46 vote, the scandal-plagued Pruitt is a climate change denier who shares the president’s love of fossil fuels and disdain for green energy—and when Pruitt (the EPA’s 14th administrator) left the agency in July, environmentalists all over the world were glad to see him go. But his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is likely to be just as bad, if not worse.
To Trump, Wheeler and Pruitt, climate change is a hoax; never mind the fact that scientists all over the world see it as an ongoing global crisis. Some of those scientists can be found in Climate Central, a Princeton, New Jersey-based nonprofit that reports on climate science. And Ben Strauss, Climate Central’s CEO and chief scientist, has asserted that many of the extreme weather events we’re seeing this summer—from droughts and wildfires to severe flooding—can be attributed to climate change. Extreme weather events have occurred throughout history, but as Climate Central has been noting, climate change is making them occur more frequently.
Here are six of the most disturbing extreme weather events that have been causing misery in the Summer of 2018.
1. Devastating Wildfire in Mati, Greece
Blizzards in Quebec, tornados in Kansas, hurricanes in Florida and wildfires in California were occurring long before climate change, but climate change has a way of exacerbating those things. So if a place is prone to hurricanes—Florida, Jamaica, Haiti or Puerto Rico, for example—there will be more of them and more intense ones. And if a place is vulnerable to wildfires, one can expect more of them. Greece, like Spain and Southern Italy, is known for its hot, dry, arid summers—and on July 29, Greek fire officials reported that a wildfire in Mati, a coastal area northeast of Athens, had led to at least 91 fatalities and that 25 other people were missing. Most of the victims burned to death in their cars or homes, although some drowned in the sea trying to escape the flames. According to the Brussels-based Center for the Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the Mati tragedy was the worst wildfire in Europe since 1900.
2. Torrential Rain in Central Pennsylvania
Democratic strategist James Carville described Pennsylvania’s political environment perfectly when it characterized it as Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west and Alabama in between—and while Philly is totally dominated by Democrats and hasn’t had a Republican mayor since the early 1950s, heavy GOP voter turnout in Central Pennsylvania (jokingly referred to as “Pennsissippi”) enabled Trump to win the state’s electoral votes. Some Republican voters in places like Altoona and Johnstown have applauded Trump for promoting fossil fuels, but judging from how hard “Pennsissippi” was hit by torrential rains in July, they would be much better off with an emphasis on green energy. Parts of Central Pennsylvania recorded eight to ten inches of rain within a week, and Weather World reported that State College experienced its heaviest July rainfall since 1893. In Harrisburg, the state capitol, the Susquehanna River was near flood stage on July 25.
3. Record Heatwave in Japan
Japan is known for its hot summers, but in July, the country experienced some of its hottest temperatures on record—and on July 23, Kyodo News reported that at least 77 heat-related deaths had occurred in the Japanese heatwave. When Kumagaya (which is about 40 miles from Tokyo) reached 106F/41C on July 23, that was the highest temperature on record in that city (which has been keeping a record of temperatures since 1896). Other record temperatures ranged from 105F/40C in Ome, Tokyo to 102F/39C in Kyoto.
4. Ongoing Drought in Cape Town, South Africa
The ongoing drought in Cape Town has been so severe that South Africa’s second largest city has literally been in danger of running out of water and having to shut off all its taps. As a result, Cape Town residents have been resorting to extreme measures like reusing water with their washing machines and only flushing the toilet once a day. And the situation is so desperate that South African officials have considered towing an iceberg from Antarctica in order to provide more water for Cape Town.
5. Wildfires in California
One of the effects of climate change is way too much water in some places and not nearly enough in others. So when residents of Central Pennsylvania were worried about the Susquehanna River overflowing due to excessive rain and flooding Downtown Harrisburg, Californians would have loved a soaking rainstorm. This summer, California has been suffering from one wildfire after another. Hundreds of homes have burned to the ground, and on July 31, there were no less than 18 wildfires occurring at the same time in California. And wildfires have been destroying homes and threatening lives all over the state, from Riverside County east of Los Angeles to areas hundreds of miles north of L.A. near the California/Oregon border. 2017 was California’s worst year on record for wildfires, but 2018 is shaping up to be even worse.
6. Wildfires in Sweden
Wildfires are hardly the first thing that come to mind when one thinks of Sweden—excellent universal healthcare, cold and snowy winters, Ikea furniture, hearty smÃ¶rgÃ¥sbords and ABBA recordings, yes, but not wildfires. This summer, however, has been unusually hot in the Scandinavian country, and in July, Swedish firefighters found themselves tackling eight wildfires in a 12-day period. According to Gunnar LundstrÃ¶m—acting chief of one of the Swedish fire stations battling the blazes—“We have forest fires every year, but never so many big ones in such a short time.”