Here's What The Grim Reality Of Climate Change Looked Like In 2020

From heat records to a relentless series of hurricanes, weather-related destruction was on full display in 2020.

Death Valley, California

A shirtless man sweats with a frozen gallon of water on his head, standing in front of a thermometer that reads "130 degrees Fahrenheit, 59 degrees celsius"
David Becker / Reuters

Steve Krofchik of Las Vegas keeps cool with a bottle of ice on his head as the thermometer reads 130 degrees at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley, California, Aug. 17.

2020 has felt like catastrophe upon catastrophe — even without the tragic consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The year is set to be either the hottest or the second-hottest on record, coming on the heels of the hottest decade ever recorded. Death Valley hit the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth in August, and the same month saw fires, floods, and intense storms around the world. The Atlantic Ocean saw its busiest hurricane season in modern history, with 30 named storms. Parts of the Gulf Coast and Central America were repeatedly hit, giving residents little chance to regroup or rebuild.

The truth of climate change is that it makes the weather more dramatic — more fires, more floods, more droughts, more heat, more extremes. No region was spared in 2020; there was havoc on every continent. Countries such as Honduras saw drought-induced water shortages until it was slammed by hurricanes that caused widespread flooding. France was flooding when it wasn't burning. Typhoons and cyclones left cities across Asia and Africa flooded and millions of residents either uprooted or dependent on aid — or both.

Widespread demonstrations for climate action were commonplace before the pandemic, led by schoolchildren around the world. While China has pledged to slash its emissions, the United States recently left the Paris agreement, the first-ever global commitment for reducing carbon emissions. And scientists say we are only experiencing the beginning effects of climate change.

Here, BuzzFeed News compiled some of the most dramatic weather-related photos from 2020.

Hereford, England

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

A rainbow appears over flooded fields in the Wye Valley, near the hamlet of Wellesley, following Storm Dennis on Feb. 17 in Hereford, England. Storm Dennis was the second named storm to bring extreme weather in a week.

Central Michigan

Seth Herald / Getty Images

A man walks across a washed-out West Saginaw Road in Sanford, Michigan, on May 21 after central parts of the state were hit with flooding and damage from heavy rains.

Shangrao, China

Getty Images

Residents ride a boat past a damaged and flooded house near Poyang Lake in Shangrao, China, July 15. The vast Yangtze drainage area had been lashed by torrential rains since the previous month, leaving 141 people dead or missing and forcing the evacuation of millions more across several provinces.


Jean Aurelio Prudence / L'Express Maurice/AFP via Getty

A man scoops leaked oil from the vessel MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of south-east Mauritius, Aug. 8.

Luther, Iowa

Daniel Acker / Getty Images

In this aerial image, damaged grain bins are shown at the Heartland Co-Op grain elevator on Aug. 11 in Luther, Iowa. Gov. Kim Reynolds said early estimates indicate 10 million acres — nearly one-third of the state's land used for crops — were damaged when a powerful storm battered the region a day earlier.

Lake Charles, Louisiana

David J. Phillip / AP

Buildings and homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27 near Lake Charles, Louisiana.

La Couronne, France

Xavier Leoty / Getty Images

A man uses a garden hose to drench his house before being evacuated as a wildfire burns in La Couronne, near Marseille, France, Aug. 4.

Whitewater, California

Josh Edelson / Getty Images

Inmate firefighters arrive at the scene of the Water fire, about 20 miles from the Apple fire in Whitewater, California, Aug. 2.

Oroville, California

Josh Edelson / Getty Images

A boat motors by the Bidwell Bar Bridge, surrounded by fire in Lake Oroville during the Bear fire in Oroville, California, Sept. 9.

San Francisco, California

Eric Risberg / AP

Under darkened, hazy red skies from wildfire smoke, a waiter carries a tray to people having lunch at the Buena Vista café in San Francisco, Sept. 9.

Mato Grosso, Brazil

Getty Images

The aftermath of forest fires in the Pantanal area of Mato Grosso, Brazil.

Talent, Oregon

Noah Berger / AP

In this aerial photo, fire retardant blankets leveled homes in Talent, Oregon on Sept. 15 after the Almeda Fire tore through the area.

Great Salt Lake, Utah

Julio Cortez / AP

A reddish tint is seen near the "Spiral Jetty" along the shore of the Great Salt Lake in Howell, Utah, Oct. 8. The red hue of the lake's North Arm comes from halophilic bacteria, which flourishes when the salt level rises.

Saint-Martin-Vésubie, France

Valery Hache / Getty Images

This aerial view shows the damage in Saint-Martin-Vésubie in southeastern France on Oct. 3, after heavy rains and flooding hit the Alpes-Maritimes region.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Sopa Images / /LightRocket via Getty Images

An ambulance makes it through the flooded Green Road in Dhaka, Bangladesh, after heavy rains.

Senekal, South Africa

Marco Longari / Getty Images

A dried-up pond on farmland outside Senekal, South Africa, Oct. 15.

Rubio, Venezuela

Str / Getty Images

People gather their belongings outside a flooded house after heavy rains caused the Carapo river to overflow in Rubio, Venezuela, Nov. 9.

Crete, Greece

Getty Images

Damaged vehicles in a flooded seaside area following heavy rainfall in the village of Gournes on the Greek island of Crete, Nov. 10.

Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua

Str / Getty Images

A woman waits for people to fix her house after Hurricane Iota passed through Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, Nov. 17.

Marikina City, the Philippines

Ted Aljibe / Getty Images

Rescuers pull a rubber boat carrying residents through a flooded street after Typhoon Vamco hit in Marikina City, Manila, Nov. 12.

Rodriguez, Philippines

Ezra Acayan / Getty Images

A rescuer carries a baby as floodwaters rise in a submerged village, as Typhoon Vamco hits, Nov. 12. The storm battered the country, causing widespread flooding and destruction in areas still reeling from the effects of Typhoon Goni.

La Lima, Honduras

Jorge Cabrera / Reuters

Vehicles are submerged by the Chamelecón River due to heavy rain caused by Hurricane Iota in La Lima, Honduras, Nov. 19.

Brandenburg, Germany

Picture Alliance / Getty Images

Dead spruces stand in a forest area with healthy coniferous and deciduous trees as climate change has a significant impact on forests in Germany. Due to droughts during the growth phases, trees in many regions have fewer leaves and needles.

Ilulissat, Greenland

Nurphoto / Getty Images

Icebergs near Ilulissat, Greenland.