December 10, 2023

As the world sweltered through the hottest three month spell in human history this summer, extreme weather disasters took more than 18,000 lives, drove at least 150,000 people from their homes, affected hundreds of millions of others and caused billions of dollars of damage.

That is a conservative tally from the most widely covered disasters between early June and early September, which have been compiled in the timeline below as a reminder of how tough this period has been and what might lie ahead.

Heatwaves, fires, floods and storms occur every year, but their intensity is being steadily amplified by human-caused climate disruption, and in 2023, given an extra boost by an El Niño. Scientists have examined a selection of these events and found human emissions massively loaded the dice in favour of disaster.

The final death toll from these months is likely to be far higher than the casualty figures reported at the time because excess heat deaths take many months to calculate.

It is also a taste of more to come. This summer’s heatwave – or worse – is forecast to occur two out of every five years if global heating reaches 2C above pre-industrial levels, and the world is currently on course to go much higher in the coming decades.

This article was amended on 29 September 2023. An earlier version said An uncontrolled blaze in Lahaina on Maui island killed 115 people; this was the original figure at the time of the fire but that was later revised to 97.

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