Storms, Mudslides, and Drought: Weather Extremes Across the Globe


( At least 146 people died from floods and mudslides in Petropolis, a mountain town in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after the region was hit with historic rainfalls. Sixteen people lost their lives due to record-breaking gales in the U.K. The western U.S. is experiencing the worst drought in 1,200 years.


Brazil Rainstorm and Mudslide

Petropolis, a beautiful mountain town in the state of Rio de Janeiro in southeastern Brazil, was hit by the heaviest rains in the past 90 years on February 15, 2022, with 260 millimeters of heavy rain falling in just six hours, more than the expected rainfall for the entire month of February.

The heavy rain, mostly in the downtown area, turned many streets in the city into rushing rivers and caused serious mudslides in impoverished hillside communities. Houses were washed away by the floods and mudslides, leaving rescue workers searching for missing people in knee-deep rubble.

At the time of writing, the deaths of 146 people were recorded, including 26 children. According to Rio de Janeiro state police, 218 people were still missing as of February 18. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that after the search and rescue operations entered the fifth day, hopes of finding more survivors have dwindled.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who visited the disaster area by helicopter on February 18, said Petropolis was hit so hard that it was like a war zone. So far, nearly 1,000 people have lost their homes and are displaced.

The February 15 rainstorm was the latest in a series of storms that have hit Brazil in the past three months, mainly in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo, the northeastern state of Bahia, and Petropolis. At least 198 people have lost their lives to the disasters.


Record-breaking Storm Hits Europe

Storm Eunice hit England on February 17, 2022 and swept through northwestern Europe the next day. At least 16 people were killed by falling trees and flying debris. Public transportation was disrupted. More than a million homes and businesses lost power. This was one of the most powerful storms to hit Europe since the Great Storm hit England and northern France in 1987.

Agence France-Presse reported that the winds brought by the storm affected Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland. Strong winds whipped up big waves on the coast, with winds as high as 196 kilometers per hour at one point, the strongest gust ever recorded in England.

Photos show a huge opening on the roof of the Millennium Dome in East London. In Brentwood, east of London, a 400-year-old tree fell and hit a home.

The Dutch rail network was paralysed. The storm damaged overhead power lines and Eurostar and Thalys suspended the operation of all trains between the UK and France.

France and Ireland also experienced rail disruptions and customers without electricity. German railway company Deutsche Bahn reported that more than a thousand kilometers of track have been damaged.

Polish officials said 1.2 million customers were still without power on the afternoon of February 19 after the storm hit the northwestern part of the country.

The death toll from the storm has reached 16 so far, including four each in the Netherlands and Poland, three in the UK, two each in Belgium and Germany, and one in Ireland.


US West Faces Worst Drought in 1,200 Years

Central News Agency reported that scientists said on February 14, 2022 that the severe drought suffered by parts of the southwestern United States and Mexico within the past two decades was the worst in 1,200 years.

Specifically, the period from 2000 to 2021 was the driest in 1,200 years. Researchers say that the severity of last year’s drought was “exceptional” and all indications are that extreme weather conditions will continue throughout 2022. Last month, the city of Los Angeles had less than 2.5 centimeters of rain, making it the eighth driest January on record for the city. The situation hasn’t seen any improvement in February.

Over the past decade, California and other western states have experienced severe water scarcity, triggering periodic water restrictions and forcing some communities to import bottled water for drinking. The occasional heavy snowfall or rainfall has been far from enough to solve the drought issue.

The year 2021 was particularly dry. According to the U.S. government’s Drought Monitor, as of the 10th of this month, 95% of the western U.S. is experiencing drought conditions.

Last summer, two of North America’s largest reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, hit their lowest levels in more than a century.

According to the findings, the current drought period has a high probability to last at least several years, if not longer. Based on simulations of soil moisture records over the past 1,200 years, researchers estimated that there is a 94 percent chance that the drought will last until 2022 and a 75 percent chance that it will last less than a decade.