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2005's weather extremes a taste of things to come?

18 Oct 2005

If the global average temperature rises, so will the number and intensity of freak weather events such as flash floods, storms, heat waves, mudslides or droughts, causing catastrophic social, environmental and economic damages.

The heatwave of 2003 which killed 35,000 people across Europe could be the norm in decades to come. 2005 has been a particularly active year for extreme weather events as the following summary shows:

October 2005, Guatemala: Hurricane 'Stan' wreaks havoc around the country, killing at least 1,800 people in Central America after heavy rains cause mudslides that bury entire villages.

August 2005, United States: Hurricane 'Katrina' devastates large areas along the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, killing more than 1100 people and causing between $70 and $130 billion in damages. Scientists have noted that the intensity of such hurricanes has increased by 50% over the last decades.

August 2005, Switzerland: Severe flooding in the Alps causes 2.6 billion Swiss francs in damages, making it the country's second most costly natural catastrophe on record. Only 1999 storm Lothar, with total damages of 3 billion francs, was more damaging.

April 2005, Romania: Heavy downpours cause the worst flooding in 40 years, damaging tens of thousands of properties and cutting off roads, rail and airports. The total damage bill reaches an estimated €650 million.

March 2005, Thailand: The worst drought in decades strikes 70 out of Thailand's 76 provinces, affecting 8.3 million people. The agriculture sector, normally accounting for around 9 percent of Thai GDP, is set to register negative growth for 2005.

February 2005, Greenland: With a record-breaking 16°C, the Southern coast of Greenland is warmer than Greece.

January 2005, Northern Europe: Countries across northern Europe face fiercest storms in 40 years, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes in Scandinavia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania left without power and causing worst flooding in the UK since decades. In Sweden, two nuclear power stations have to be shut down for safety reasons.

January 2005, Portugal: The country suffers from the worst drought since weather recording began, heavily impacting on agriculture and tourism, causing forest fires all over the country.

Let's not wait for climate change to hit home - take action now.

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