Climate emergency: The most extreme weather events of 2021

Major climate disasters this year struck many countries around the world, including the United States, Greece, and Indonesia among others.

A wide range of natural disasters struck numerous parts of the world this year.

From deadly floods and wildfires to record-breaking rainfall and temperatures, countries including the United States, Greece, Indonesia, and China – among others – have all been affected.

The extreme weather events are major indications of climate change, an issue scientists have warned requires urgent action by world leaders currently attending the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP26 in Glasgow.

Here is a recap of the major environmental events so far of 2021.


Snowstorms across much of Spain killed at least four people during the first week of January. The blizzard trapped motorists and closed the capital Madrid’s air and rail links.

Madrid experienced its heaviest snowfall since 1971 after what Spain’s weather agency described as “exceptional and most likely historic” conditions caused by Storm Filomena.

At the time, the extreme conditions put four other regions in the centre of the country on alert for days.

According to The New York Times, the snowstorm caused damage estimated at about 1.4 billion euros ($1.6bn).

Firefighters shovel snow during a heavy snowfall in Rivas Vaciamadrid, Spain [File: Manu Fernandez/AP Photo]

United Kingdom

On January 18, the United Kingdom saw some of its heaviest precipitations in decades. For three consecutive days, Storm Christoph brought significant rain and widespread flooding across the country.

Residents evacuated their homes in parts of England, while the snowfall that followed led to travel disruptions and road closures.


Fiji was hit by Cyclone Ana at the end of January, killing one person. At least five people – including a three-year-old child – went missing.

The force and intensity of the Category 2 storm took many by surprise, though it came just two months after an earlier cyclone devastated parts of the archipelago.

Some 10,000 people sought shelter at emergency evacuation centres as floods and rain destroyed homes, as well as agricultural land and other infrastructure.

Texas, United States

In February, temperatures dropped to -13 degrees Celsius (8.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas of Texas, causing widespread electricity cuts.

The unprecedented deep freeze led to the deaths of hundreds of Texans and left millions in the dark for days.

In Midland, the heart of the West Texas shale region, record snowfall and temperatures hitting a 32-year low shut down offices and businesses.


In March, China witnessed its worst sandstorm in a decade, bringing flights to a halt and shuttering schools. The storm further worsened air quality and pollution levels across the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The sandstorms spread from Inner Mongolia into the provinces of Gansu, Shanxi and Hubei, which surrounds Beijing.

City residents used goggles, masks and hairnets to protect themselves from the choking air, with landmarks including the Forbidden City and the distinctive headquarters of state broadcaster CCTV obscured behind yellow smog.

A person walks with a broom and dustpan during morning rush hour as Beijing, China, is hit by a sandstorm [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]


More than 150 people were killed when Cyclone Seroja hit Indonesia and East Timor in April, triggering flash floods and landslides that uprooted trees, blocked roads and turned small communities into wastelands of mud.

Dozens of people went missing and thousands became homeless because of the cyclone, while about 10,000 people fled to shelters across neighbouring Southeast Asian nations.


A smothering heatwave in June killed 569 people in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia over five days.

The deaths represent a 195 percent increase from 165 deaths that would normally occur in the province across a five-day period, authorities said.

At the time temperatures soared in BC and other Canadian provinces and territories while a so-called “heat dome” – a weather system that traps in hot air – descended on the country’s west coast.

Experts said climate change contributed to the record-shattering heat.

A man cools off at a misting station during the scorching heatwave in Vancouver, Canada [File: Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]


Swaths of western Germany and Belgium in July drowned as floods devastated low-lying towns in the region for the first time in 60 years.

In Germany, at least 170 people died in the worst natural disaster to hit the European country in decades.

The floods caused severe damage to infrastructure, phone networks, and left more than 100,000 people without power.


In Italy, firefighters battled more than 500 blazes in Sicily and the southern Calabria region in August. At least two people lost their lives.

A monitoring station in Sicily reported temperatures of 48.8C (119.8F) – levels some scientists believed could have been the highest in European history.


As wildfires ravaged parts of Southern Europe in August, Greece was one of the countries heavily affected. The country’s second-largest island of Evia was evacuated as more than 580 fires swept through the region.

Forests were scorched by wildfires in Evia as well as Peloponnese and Attica, including around the capital Athens. Two people were reportedly killed and at least 20 others injured.

Farms and livestock burned as Greece witnessed one of the worst heat waves on record, with temperatures as high as 47C (117F) lasting for more than a week.

Firefighters and volunteers try to extinguish a wildfire burning in the village of Markati, near Athens, Greece [File: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]


At least eight people were killed when wildfires ravaged parts of Turkey in July and August – namely the coastal provinces of Antalya and Mugla and in Tunceli, southeast Turkey.

Many villagers lost property and farm animals, while locals and tourists fled vacation resorts in boats.

The wildfires were the worst of their kind in at least 10 years, with nearly 95,000 hectares (235,000 acres) burned down, compared with an average of 13,516 at the same point in the years between 2008 and 2020.

Unites States

Hurricane Ida walloped the US East Coast in August with record-breaking rain days after hitting the Gulf Coast as one of the strongest hurricanes on record to strike the US.

The storm killed at least 45 people from Maryland to New York as basement apartments filled with water, rivers and creeks swelled to record levels, and roadways turned into car-swallowing canals.

More than one million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were left without power after Ida toppled a major transmission tower. New Orleans was plunged into total darkness before power began returning to parts of the city days later.

Homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in Lafitte, Louisiana, US [File: David J Phillip/AP Photo]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies