HDWN #61

August 1, 2023
6-9 minutes


The weeks of July 16 and July 23 saw a worrying increase in the number of extreme weather events. People all over the world have been hit by heat waves, forest fires, floods, landslides, torrential rains, cyclones, tornadoes and more. So we have to ask ourselves where exactly this influx of extreme weather events is coming from.

Heat waves and fires:

The summer of 2023 saw unprecedented temperatures across the globe. At the beginning of July, the highest-ever global average temperature was 17.23°C, a considerable jump on the previous record of 16.92°C set in 2016.


Throughout July, southern European countries experienced record-breaking heat as part of an event dubbed the "Cerberus heatwave" (named after the monstrous three-headed dog that guards the underworld). The heat wave saw temperatures regularly exceed 40°C in Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Greece, Croatia and Turkey.

In Italy, temperatures of up to 48.2°C were recorded. Further north, countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, the UK and Austria also experienced unusual heat, with temperatures approaching 30 degrees.

Meteorologists predict that the extreme heat could bring further dangers to the region. Environmental damage includes landslides due to melting glaciers in the Dolomites, forest fires due to dehydrated vegetation in Spain, and hailstorms due to increased evaporation in Italy.

Map showing different temperature records around the Mediterranean basin in July 2023, using a color scale.
ⓒ HD Rain

Fires around the mediterranean basin

The Mediterranean basin is a region that has been particularly hard hit by climate change. In recent weeks, many of the region's countries have been hit by devastating fires. These include the Dalmatia region of Croatia, parts of northern Algeria, the island of Corsica in France, north-west Tunisia, the Lisbon region of Portugal and several islands in Greece.

According to researchers at the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM) in Barcelona, analyzing satellite data from the European observatory Copernicus, "A new record for the period 1982-2023 has been broken for the daily median sea surface temperature in the Mediterranean, at 28.71ºC".

This has had numerous consequences, including forest fires in Greece, Croatia, Sicily and Corsica.

The fires on the islands of Rhodes, Corfu and Evia in Greece are particularly noteworthy, with firefighters battling these brutal blazes for almost a month. Although forest fires across the country have a variety of origins, the prolonged heat in Greece (between 45°C and 46.4°C in the week of July 16) has undoubtedly played a role in the spread of the blazes. By the end of July, over 36,000 hectares of Greek wilderness had burned, 8,680 tonnes of toxic smoke particles had been released, 30,000 people had been evacuated and dozens of civilians injured. In Rhodes alone, there have been 357 active fires in the last 7 days. Forest fires have devastated at least 12% of the island.

Image showing fires in Greece in July 2023. Land ablaze, trees dry, houses destroyed by fire.
© Petros Giannakouris, AP

United States

Extreme heat blanketed the United States in July. The states of California, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Texas, Florida, New Mexico and Arizona all experienced record heat. This heat is expected to affect 55.2 million people, or 17% of the US population.

Phoenix, Arizona, was the most drastic, with average temperatures reaching 40°C during the week of July 23. Other cities across the country were just as bad, with temperatures in excess of 38°C across much of the country. Similarly, uninhabited Death Valley is set to set a new world record for heat, with temperatures already exceeding 54.4°C.

Tornadoes, storms and cyclones

Rising global temperatures not only cause heavy rainfall, forest fires and drought, but also fuel the development of powerful storms. Increased evaporation means more water and moisture in the atmosphere and during storms. In addition, greater temperature variations over land than over water accelerate wind speeds, another ingredient of storms. As a result, the weeks of July 16 and July 23 were marked by an influx of global storms, of which parts of Europe and Southeast Asia were the first examples in recent weeks.

Supercellular storms in Europe

From July 21 to 25, supercell thunderstorms developed over parts of northern Italy and Switzerland, bringing tornadoes and hailstorms to the region. These storms damaged crops and infrastructure and injured hundreds of civilians.

In Italy, winds of almost 100 km/h were recorded, and the storms caused record hail near Venice. The largest hailstone recorded measured 19 centimetres, breaking the record for the largest hailstone ever found in Europe. The storms uprooted trees, lifted building roofs, damaged crops and injured 110 people across the country.

In Switzerland, the same supercell thundercloud conditions turned into tornadoes moving at 217 kilometers per hour. The tornado struck the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, killing one person and injuring 15 others.

Cyclones in Southeast Asia

The countries of Southeast Asia have been hit by two cyclones (also known as typhoons) in recent weeks. These were cyclone Talim, which raged from July 9 to 19, and typhoon Doksuri, which raged from July 25 to the end of the month.

Cyclone Talim

Cyclone Talim hit parts of southern China, Hong Kong and Vietnam in mid-July. It is the fourth typhoon to hit the region in 2023. The storm first hit China's Guandong and Hainan provinces, with winds exceeding 136 km/h, heavy rain and waves up to 6 meters high. The cyclone displaced 230,000 people, flooded roads, closed schools and workplaces and damaged infrastructure. The typhoon finally dissipated in northern Vietnam on July 19.

Typhoon Doksuri

Typhoon Doksuri made landfall in the northern Philippines on July 25 with winds exceeding 185 kilometers per hour and rainfall of over 200 millimeters. In all, the storm affected 180,000 people, displacing 11,000, causing several landslides, killing six and injuring at least two others.

Typhoon Doksuri reached Beijing on Saturday July 29, 2023, after devastating southeast China from the previous Friday. Due to the heavy rainfall, the northern region of China, including the Beijing area, has been on red alert since 8 pm local time on Saturday July 29, to cope with the torrential downpours. More than 500 mm of rainfall in 24 hours has been recorded, and almost 27,000 people have had to be evacuated.

The typhoon impacted 1.45 million Fujian residents, causing economic losses estimated at 3.045 billion yuan. It is the strongest typhoon to hit Fujian province since 2016.

Rain, floods and landslides

North America

North America has been hit by a multitude of rain-related disasters in recent weeks. In the northeastern United States, severe storms left at least five people dead and seven missing. Parts of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island experienced the worst flooding since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Vermont was hardest hit by the "millennial" precipitation, with rainfall of 10 cm in some areas, swelling rivers and flooding metropolitan areas. According to initial estimates, the floods damaged at least 4,000 homes and 800 businesses.

Image showing a flooded road, with two people trapped by the rising water, a woman and a man trying to cross.
ⓒ Jeb Wallace-Brodeur/AP/SIPA

In Canada, torrential rains hit the eastern province of Nova Scotia on July 21, bringing 250 millimeters of rain in 24 hours - the equivalent of three months' rainfall. The rain completely flooded many main roads, sweeping away homes and burying cars under water. Tens of thousands were left without power and at least four people were reported missing.

aerial view of rising water levels in Canada following flooding. Roads and avenues have become rivers of mud.

South America

On July 17, in the province of Quetame in central Colombia, torrential rains flooded three rivers, triggering violent landslides that left at least 14 people dead and 20 missing. The landslides not only claimed lives, they also destroyed several houses, tore up a bridge and blocked a major highway linking the capital Bogotá. The pile-up of mud and debris complicated search efforts, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency to mobilize the province's disaster management administrative unit. Dozens of people were eventually forced to evacuate the area.


Asia also saw its share of rain-related disasters.

South Korea

In South Korea, the torrential rains that began on July 9 caused considerable damage, leaving 41 people dead, 35 injured and 9 missing. Nearly 13,000 people had to be evacuated and almost 30,000 were without power after more than a week of rain. Rescue operations are continuing, and the army has dispatched 10,000 soldiers to help find those who are still missing.


In Pakistan, at least 11 workers were killed and five injured when a wall collapsed following heavy rain, just outside the capital Islamabad. Over 14,000 people have already been evacuated from the area. Pakistan is no stranger to devastating monsoons. In 2022, floods submerged almost a third of its territory, killing nearly 1,700 people and causing billions of dollars in damage. In the 2023 season, which began in June, at least 60 people have already died in floods, building collapses, landslides and other monsoon-related events.


Monsoons have also hit India in recent weeks. On July 19, a devastating landslide in the village of Irshalwadi (about 80 kilometers from Mumbai) killed 27 people, including four children. The landslides also destroyed 17 of the 48 houses in the small mountain town. Although India is accustomed to a severe monsoon season, record rainfall has killed more than 100 people in the north of the country over the past three weeks. Indeed, media and authorities reported that New Delhi recorded record rainfall in a single day, with 153 millimeters of rain, the most in a July day for forty years.

Flooding in India during the monsoon season. Cars under water, people trying to move forward in streets that have become tides of mud and garbage.
ⓒ Himanshu SHARMA / AFP