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These Images Of The Effects Of Climate Change In 2018 Are Devastating

Another year of changing climate intensified fires, hurricanes, and droughts, and resulted in a staggering number of human and economic losses.

Posted on December 28, 2018, at 8:01 a.m. ET

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

This year saw a number of notable wildfires, storms, and droughts ravage many regions around the world. As the year draws to an end and we look to 2019 for some relief, the National Climate Assessment, released in November and prepared across 13 federal agencies, isn't reassuring: More frequent and intense events are on the horizon as the climate continues to warm. The report warns of further loss of life, substantial economic impact, and a transformation of current ecosystems so significant that "future generations can expect to experience and interact with the natural environment in ways that are different from today." These photos illustrate this year’s most devastating natural disasters.

WILDFIRES

Drought, kindling-like dry vegetation, and strong winds intensified wildfires this year to catastrophic levels, helping them burn hotter and spread faster. As global temperatures continue to rise for the foreseeable future and communities continue to be built and expand into fire-prone areas, wildfires will persist as a menacing force with devastating consequences.

In Greece, a series of wildfires called the Attica fires spread across resort communities such as Mati, and began on July 23 during a particularly lengthy heat wave in Europe. These fires were the second-deadliest series in the 21st century with over 90 dead. Although many factors contributed to the high death toll, the prolonged hot and dry conditions coupled with winds in excess of 45 mph fed and fanned the fast-moving blaze.

California also had a particularly disastrous year that included both the most destructive (Camp fire) and the largest complex fires (Mendocino Complex fire) on record for the state. The Mendocino Complex fire torched over 400,000 acres of land in July and killed a firefighter. The Camp fire, which was first reported on Nov. 8, in Paradise, California, claimed the lives of 88 people and destroyed more than 250,000 acres. Other notable fires in California were the Woolsey fire, which began in November and burned all the way from Thousand Oaks to the coastline in Malibu, and the Carr fire in July, which claimed the lives of both firefighters and civilians.

A burned neighborhood in Paradise, California, as a result of the Camp fire, Nov. 15.
Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

A burned neighborhood in Paradise, California, as a result of the Camp fire, Nov. 15.

A home is overshadowed by towering smoke plumes as the Camp fire burns through Paradise on Nov. 8.
Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

A home is overshadowed by towering smoke plumes as the Camp fire burns through Paradise on Nov. 8.

People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, July 23.
Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP / Getty Images

People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, July 23.

A scorched area following a wildfire in the Greek village of Mati, July 26.
Savvas Karmaniolas / AFP / Getty Images

A scorched area following a wildfire in the Greek village of Mati, July 26.

Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch fire in Northern California, Aug. 7.
Noah Berger / AP

Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch fire in Northern California, Aug. 7.

Burned-out cars from the Ranch fire, part of the Mendocino Complex fire, which hit Spring Valley in Northern California, on Aug. 7.
Josh Edelson / AFP / Getty Images

Burned-out cars from the Ranch fire, part of the Mendocino Complex fire, which hit Spring Valley in Northern California, on Aug. 7.

Tim Biglow tries to save furniture from the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Nov. 9.
Ringo H.w. Chiu / AP

Tim Biglow tries to save furniture from the Woolsey fire in Malibu, Nov. 9.

The Woolsey fire reaches the ocean along the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, Nov. 9.
Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

The Woolsey fire reaches the ocean along the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, Nov. 9.

Homes destroyed by the Carr fire, Redding, California, July 27.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Homes destroyed by the Carr fire, Redding, California, July 27.

DROUGHT & EXTREME HEAT

The overall rise and often extreme temperatures, coupled with little to no precipitation, led to lengthy heat waves in regions worldwide and put some cities in a drought. The Australian state of New South Wales was plunged into total despair "with close to 100% of the state in one of the three drought categories," according to the Department of Primary Industries, which monitors drought. The state's second-driest fall on record was followed by a very dry winter, leading to large-scale crop failure and dried-up dams. Grim images of skin-and-bones livestock began to emerge as farmers struggled to feed their animals and find them adequate water.

Northern and Southern European countries alike were gripped by a deadly heat wave caused in part by a stalled jet stream beginning in May. The prolonged extreme temperatures caused a widespread browning of fields and vegetation, which could be seen from space. Other effects included a number of wildfires, the melting of the southern peak of Kebnekaise in Sweden, causing it to lose its title as the highest peak in the country, and a critical reduction of the Rhine’s river levels, resulting in the death of thousands of fish.

In Afghanistan, another very dry winter has led to the worst drought in decades with millions of people in some parts of the country lacking access to food and water. The situation is so dire it rivals the ongoing conflict between the government and the Taliban. The United Nations announced the allocation of $34.5 million in emergency aid in October.

The riverbed of the Rhine dried out on Aug. 8 in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Patrik Stollarz / AFP / Getty Images

The riverbed of the Rhine dried out on Aug. 8 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Dry sunflower plants in a field near Lyon, France, affected by drought during a heat wave on Aug. 20.
Konrad K. / KONRAD K./SIPA

Dry sunflower plants in a field near Lyon, France, affected by drought during a heat wave on Aug. 20.

Harry Taylor, 6, plays on the dust bowl his family farm has become during the drought on June 17 in Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia.
Brook Mitchell / Getty Images

Harry Taylor, 6, plays on the dust bowl his family farm has become during the drought on June 17 in Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia.

A train makes its way through dry paddocks in the drought-hit area of Quirindi in New South Wales, Australia.
Glenn Nicholls / AFP / Getty Images

A train makes its way through dry paddocks in the drought-hit area of Quirindi in New South Wales, Australia.

An Afghan girl carries empty containers to collect water as a younger child looks on in Sakhi village, Afghanistan, on July 19.
Farshad Usyan / AFP / Getty Images

An Afghan girl carries empty containers to collect water as a younger child looks on in Sakhi village, Afghanistan, on July 19.

Drought-displaced Afghan children at their tent at a camp for internally displaced people in the Injil district of Herat province in Afghanistan on Aug. 3.
Hoshang Hashimi / AFP / Getty Images

Drought-displaced Afghan children at their tent at a camp for internally displaced people in the Injil district of Herat province in Afghanistan on Aug. 3.

HURRICANES & TYPHOONS

Hurricanes, or typhoons, as they're called for storms over the western Pacific ocean, are fueled first and foremost by warm ocean waters. As the oceans gradually heat by around 0.2 degrees per decade, we should experience larger and more frequent storms during future hurricane seasons.

Two major storms to hit the United States this year were hurricanes Florence and Michael. Both storms reached a Category 4 while over the warm ocean waters, and each caused destruction in their own way. Florence, the first major hurricane of the season, weakened before making landfall as a Category 1 on Sept. 15, but moved so slowly and dumped a devastating amount of rain (20 to 30 inches) that it caused catastrophic flooding in North Carolina and 53 deaths. Hurricane Michael, the third most intense hurricane to make landfall in the US, hit Mexico Beach, Florida, as a Category 4 on Oct. 10. Its wind speeds (up to 155 mph) caused more damage than its rainfall. At least 36 people died as a result of Michael.

Super Typhoon Mangkhut was a Category 5 as it made landfall in the northern Philippines and made its way toward South China. In anticipation of this incredibly strong storm, the Hong Kong Observatory labeled it a Signal 10 (the strongest in its range). The typhoon caused an incredible amount of damage with heavy rain, strong storm surge, wind damage with speeds of 109 mph and deadly landslides, and caused at least 88 deaths.

Jovani Quintano and Carlos Gomez walk through a flooded neighborhood after heavy rains brought on by Hurricane Florence, Sept. 19, in Lumberton, North Carolina.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Jovani Quintano and Carlos Gomez walk through a flooded neighborhood after heavy rains brought on by Hurricane Florence, Sept. 19, in Lumberton, North Carolina.

Floodwaters from the cresting Little River inundated the area of Spring Lake, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Floodwaters from the cresting Little River inundated the area of Spring Lake, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence, Sept. 17.

Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the East Coast on Sept. 12.
NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) via Getty Images

Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the East Coast on Sept. 12.

The aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong on Sept. 17.
Lam Yik Fei / Getty Images

The aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong on Sept. 17.

Rescuers dig at a landslide site where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon, Benguet province, the Philippines, on Sept. 18.
Ted Aljibe / AFP / Getty Images

Rescuers dig at a landslide site where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon, Benguet province, the Philippines, on Sept. 18.

Rescue workers make their way through floodwaters during a rescue operation after Super Typhoon Mangkhut passed through Macau on Sept. 16.
Isaac Lawrence / AFP / Getty Images

Rescue workers make their way through floodwaters during a rescue operation after Super Typhoon Mangkhut passed through Macau on Sept. 16.

Route 98 in Mexico Beach, Florida, was decimated after Hurricane Michael passed through the area in October.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Route 98 in Mexico Beach, Florida, was decimated after Hurricane Michael passed through the area in October.

Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after its roof was blown off by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 11 in Panama City.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after its roof was blown off by Hurricane Michael on Oct. 11 in Panama City.

A man walks through Mexico Beach, Florida, Oct. 16.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

A man walks through Mexico Beach, Florida, Oct. 16.

CORRECTION

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm in Mexico Beach, Florida, on Oct. 10. A previous version of this story misstated the date as Oct. 4.


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