What We Learned from 2023’s Weather—And What to Do in 2024

Mother Nature made her presence felt in 2023 with severe weather crises that captured global attention. There were about 240 major climate disasters worldwide last year, reports The Emergency Events Database—from an earthquake in Türkiye and Syria to wildfires in Greece, a hurricane in Mexico, and floods in Congo and Rwanda.

Throughout the U.S., 2023 ushered in cyclones and atmospheric river storms across California, record high temperatures in Arizona, freezing ice storms from Texas to the Midwest, and heavy smoke up North due to an unusually active wildfire season. As we reflect on both the physical devastation and socioeconomic impact of extreme weather events, let’s also look ahead to the future with strategies to help curb the effects of climate change in 2024.

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season saw 20 named storms make landfall, destroying North and Central America. The costliest hurricanes and tropical storms last year were Ophelia in North Carolina, Idalia in South Florida, Otis in Acapulco, and Lee in Nova Scotia— each the result of a warmer ocean and stronger El Niño winds.

Because hurricanes often leave severe infrastructure damage (and, in many cases, high death tolls) in their wake, it’s crucial to plan for these inclement weather patterns. Communities in prevalent hurricane zones need resilient infrastructure such as elevated buildings, storm surge barriers, and efficient drainage systems.

Residents must also account for personal safety measures like weather radios, evacuation routes, shelter-in-place items, emergency kits, and storm-resistant hardware to protect their homes and themselves from a potentially disastrous aftermath.

Major Heat Waves and Wildfires

The World Meteorological Organization estimates that 2023 was the hottest year in almost two centuries. These record-breaking temperatures led to extreme summer heat waves across the Northern Hemisphere—from the U.S. and Mexico to Europe and Asia. These changes in climate also sparked many catastrophic wildfires in Hawai’i, California, Portugal, Canada, Russia, Greece, and Spain, wreaking havoc in communities and ecosystems.

Wildfire prevention requires a series of multi-faceted solutions. Effective land management practices, such as controlled burns or firebreaks, can help reduce the chances of starting an uncontainable blaze. Vulnerable regions should also invest in seamless evacuation plans and early detection technologies to prioritize the safety of residents.

Almost 90 percent of wildfires in the United States alone start from human activities, so everyone must do their part to minimize these climate disaster risks. Responsible behaviors such as using fire-resistant materials and creating defensible spaces in or around homes, adhering to fire safety protocols when outside in nature, and burning less fossil fuels can substantially contribute to long-term wildfire prevention.

Torrential Rainfall and Flooding

In September 2023, 10 countries experienced severe flooding in just 12 days. Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong faced two massive typhoons. Brazil experienced its heaviest rainfall in over 40 years. Several European nations dealt with a powerful storm in the Mediterranean. Worst of all, Libya suffered 11,000 casualties from a torrential flood.

When excessive rainfall occurs, urban areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding due to inadequate drainage systems or impermeable surfaces. This natural phenomenon threatens human life and infrastructure and causes long-term consequences like economic instability, waterborne illness, or community displacement.

City planning schemes can help combat these issues by improving both construction methods and water drainage systems. Sustainable land use practices (like creating more green spaces in urban areas) can also alleviate the risk of flooding, as permeable surfaces absorb excess rainwater so it doesn’t accumulate in sewers and spill over into the streets.

Sea Levels and Coastal Erosion

Due to rapid glacier melt and high water temperatures, sea levels are rising at more than double the pace they used to. That’s because oceans absorb 90 percent of the extra heat from carbon pollution—45 times more CO2 than in the atmosphere.

Higher sea levels caused many ecological problems in 2023, from coastal erosion to saltwater intrusion. Low-lying areas also faced the threat of structural damage or human displacement due to flooding and other extreme weather events.

In addition to limiting carbon emissions, coastal protection measures such as dikes, seawalls, or beach nourishment projects help communities adapt to rising sea levels. Policymakers should also initiate sustainable construction practices to relocate future housing and commercial developments away from the most vulnerable coastlines.

We Can Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change in 2024

As we reflect on both the frequency and intensity of climate disasters in 2023, it’s clear that we must come together as individuals, communities, and global economies to invest in solutions that will make our planet safer. We will continue to navigate these stormy waters in 2024—but with the right protective measures, we can minimize weather-related losses and bolster our resilience in the face of an increasingly unpredictable future.