Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 February 2021
Are extreme weather events like cyclones, hurricanes and heatwaves the new normal? This question is heavily discussed around the globe. It is a scientific fact that global warming induced by anthropogenic climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events. This increase in frequency also increases the number of cases in which such extreme weather events turn into natural disasters and devastate societies, communities or even whole nations. One very prominent example of a country struck by such devastation is Haiti.
Haiti was hit by a severe earthquake in 2010, and six years later, in 2016 – while the country was still struggling from the consequences of the earthquake – it was hit by a severe hurricane, Matthew. Hurricane Matthew's consequences in the Caribbean and in particular Haiti were extreme, leading to mass displacement, humanitarian crises and property damage. In 2017, several cyclones and hurricanes again gained attention. In March and at the beginning of April, cyclone Debbie, one of the strongest to impact Australia, caused a landfall in Queensland. At the same time, the 2017 hurricane season was one of the most severe ever recorded, with several high-category hurricanes affecting different Caribbean islands. The 2018 hurricane and cyclone season had various impacts upon disasterprone States: for example cyclone Gita, which impacted several Pacific Island States in February 2018. The 2019 cyclone season was one of the most severe ever recorded. In March 2019, the tropical Cyclone Idai caused dangerous floods in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The death toll was over 600 in Mozambique alone. Roughly one month later, in April 2019, cyclone Kenneth also caused a landfall in Mozambique, and was the strongest cyclone to hit the African continent ever recorded.
The biggest impact of such extreme events is on human lives and livelihoods. The consequences are also financial, however, and can easily place the affected State under massive financial pressure. Dominica in 2017, for example, requested a total of USD 31.1 million in its flash appeal, in order to help the victims of the hurricane season.