No Need to Keep Predicting Weather Crises: They're Here

As Hurricane Beryl sets records for early-season hurricanes, all the foreboding about a catastrophic summer seems to be coming to pass. 


As I sit in sweltering Northern California -- where it's 105 degrees as I write this -- I realize that I barely have anything to complain about, given the crazy weather seemingly everywhere else.

The biggest problem for the moment is Hurricane Beryl, which devastated parts of the Caribbean and made landfall in Texas early Monday. The storm killed at least four, knocked out power for millions of people and caused vast damage to homes and other property. 

But there are plenty of other catastrophes, too. Wildfires have created much more devastation than normal for this time of year. Heat domes have caused severe distress throughout North America, India and other parts of the world. Floods have hit the Middle East and parts of the U.S. Unusually severe storms have also crushed areas with heavy winds, hail and lightning. 

And we seem to just be getting started. In particular, Hurricane Beryl's appearance as a Category 5 hurricane so early in the season -- drawing energy from water in the Atlantic that is far warmer than normal -- suggests that all the dire forecasts about hurricanes this year may, sadly, play out.

As a recent headline in Bloomberg read, "The Era of Super-Wild Weather Is Already Here."

The Bloomberg article, from June 19, opens:

"Wildfires in Canada that burned continuously for over a year. Floods that brought Dubai to a standstill. Deadly heat blanketing the streets of New Delhi.... 

"Florida is in its second week of battling torrential rainfall so intense near Sarasota that it has odds of occurring just once in 500 to 1,000 years. Damages could top $1 billion."

The article continues:

"The weather is no longer an even roll of the dice. It’s more like throwing loaded dice that have sixes on three sides — or sevens and eights, says Katharine Hayhoe, a distinguished professor at Texas Tech University who studies climate impacts. The term 'global warming' itself suggests a kind of predictability that may no longer suit the times. 'These days I think it’s much more appropriate to call it ‘global weirding'.... Wherever we live, our weather is getting much weirder.'”

Since that article came out, headlines like these have landed in my inbox: "California's Early Explosive Wildfire Season Is Nearly 1,500% Ahead of Last Year," "Extreme Heat Deadlier Than Wildfires, California Insurance Regulator Says" and "Much of New Mexico Is Under Flood Watch After 100 Rescued from Waters Over Weekend," The Triple-I reported that claims paid for lightning strikes, which surged in 2023, totaled $1.27 billion in the U.S.  

As bad as those headline are, what really worries me is what comes next. 

The Washington Post tallied records set by Hurricane Beryl:

"Beryl became the Atlantic’s strongest June storm on record. Its intensification from tropical depression to a Category 4 storm within 48 hours was unprecedented for the time of year. When it gained Category 5 strength July 1, it did so earlier than any other Atlantic hurricane on record.

"And when it struck Texas, it became just the 10th hurricane on record to make landfall there during the month of July, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach. No other Atlantic hurricane in the past decade has made landfall on U.S. shores so early in tropical cyclone season, which began in June."

An article in Carrier Management says:

“'Beryl is unprecedentedly strange,' said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters, a former government hurricane meteorologist who flew into storms. 'It is so far outside the climatology that you look at it and you say, ‘How did this happen in June?''”

And worse can be expected because the water in the Atlantic is so warm that it provides unprecedent fuel for major storms. 

The Bloomberg article warns that we should start thinking beyond individual catastrophes and start imagining "compound events," "where multiple disasters — natural and manmade — occur at the same time or place, exacerbating their combined impact. A prime example can be found in Texas, where high temperatures contributed to the state’s largest-ever wildfire. Abnormally dry conditions in the Canadian province of Alberta translated into an early start to fire season.

"In other cases, impacts spread across borders. In March, Saharan dust storms blew north, turning skies yellow and orange in Sicily and degrading air quality from Greece, through Italy, to France, which also saw intense rain. Spiking food and energy prices have also overlapped with harsh weather conditions, for example, magnifying the consequences of the years-long drought in Syria, Iraq and Iran."

The only short-term advice I can muster comes from my sailing days: Batten down the hatches. 

But in the medium- and long-term we need to do some serious thinking to prepare ourselves and our clients for more "global weirding."