Extreme Weather

The incidence of extreme weather—catastrophic storms, megadroughts, extreme heat—has markedly risen over just the past two decades.


Over the past 50 years, climate change, extreme weather and extreme water events have caused a surge in natural disasters, accounting for 50 per cent of all disasters, 45 per cent of all reported deaths and 74 per cent of all reported economic losses according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in its Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses as a result of Climate, Weather and Water Extremes 1970-2019.  The Atlas, which includes data from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) notes the human cost of these natural disasters over the past 50 years at just over two million lives lost, and economic losses of over $3.64 trillion dollars, with a current loss rate of more than $383 million per day globally.


Extreme Rain Combined with Drought

Parts of Brazil experienced record torrential rainfall from December 2021 through February 2022 resulting in flash floods, river overflows and catastrophic dam failures and mudslides that have taken more than 200 lives, demolished homes and buildings, forced more than 100 municipalities to declare states of emergency, and displaced upwards of half a million mostly poor people. The extreme rains—the heaviest in nearly 100 years—followed more than five years of climate driven drought in the region.

Extreme Heat

Temperatures are rising across the globe, with some regions experiencing more rapid increases and extreme heat events. In January of 2022 alone, for example, Australia witnessed its highest temperatures on record with temperatures reaching 50.7°C (123°F) along its Northwest Coast, and temperatures in parts of Argentina reached 45°C (113°F). And in 2021 new temperature records were set in Canada--49.6 °C (121.4°F) on June 29, 2021, at Lytton, BC—and in Europe—48.8 °C (119.8°F) set in Sicily, Italy, on August 11, 2021. The World Meteorological Organization has reported in January 2022 that the warmest seven years on record have all been since 2015, with 2016, 2019 and 2020 constituting the top three.  


Extreme drought conditions have direct impacts on the environment and populations, especially so called “megadroughts” that persist over years. A study published in February 2022 in Nature Climate Change, found that the megadrought affecting nearly 90% of the Western United States over the past two decades is the worst in over 12,000 years, and shows no signs of subsiding. These extreme droughts lead to biodiversity loss, aridification and deforestation of large swaths of land, population movement away from drought-stricken areas, increase in wildfires, and long-term water depletion among others. The direct economic impacts on agriculture and related industries can be profound, and food and water insecurity can directly threaten human life.

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