Newhaven, Sussex, Stormy Seas With Wave Crashing against Sea Wall. Lighthouse Partially Visible Behind. Seagull Flying Through Spray.

Extreme weather

An extreme weather event is rare at a particular place and time of year, with unusual characteristics in terms of magnitude, location, timing, or extent. The characteristics of what is called extreme weather may vary from place to place in an absolute sense.

Extreme heatwaves in 2003 and 2010 accounted for 80% of weather-related deaths in Europe from 1970-2019.
Extreme temperatures of 40+°C and even 50°C are becoming increasingly frequent worldwide.
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C could significantly reduce the number of people affected by extreme weather.
Every degree of global warming is projected to cause a 7% increase in extreme daily rainfall.
Limiting global warming to 1.5 °C instead of 2 °C could result in around 420 million fewer people being frequently exposed.
390,000 ha
In 2021, the Dixie fire in California burnt a record-breaking 390,000 hectares.


Examples of extreme weather and climate events include, but are not limited to, heatwaves, cold waves, heavy precipitation, drought, tornadoes and tropical cyclones.

Human-induced climate change beyond natural climate variability, including more frequent and intense extreme events has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people. (IPCC, 2022)

The adverse impacts of extreme weather and climate events are amplified by their increased intensity, duration and spatial extent. Sequential extreme events can compound increasing impacts above what would normally be expected for an isolated extreme weather event. 


Natural climate variability (including the El Niño phenomenon) can result in extreme weather and climate impacts, but climate change is leading to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of weather and climate extremes. Sometimes these impacts can be unprecedented.

Climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe, with human influence contributing to many observed changes in weather and climate extremes (IPCC AR6-SPM).

For example, as air warms it can hold more water vapour – about 7% per 1 °C – increasing the intensity of heavy rainfall events.

More frequent and more intense weather events, such as severe heatwaves, and heavy precipitation lead to increased impacts on more vulnerable populations.

Additionally, human influence has likely increased the chance of compound extreme events since the 1950s, including increases in the frequency of concurrent heatwaves and droughts.

The number of disasters has increased by a factor of five over the past 50 years, driven by climate change, more extreme weather and improved reporting. Improved early warnings and disaster management, has decreased the number of deaths almost three-fold.

Extreme weather events have increased to the point that World Meteorological Day 2022’s theme was Early Warning and Early Action and focused strongly on climate change and extreme weather.

Improving the understanding and characterization of extreme weather and climate impacts is also crucial for decision support and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

WMO's response

WMO works with Members and their National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to collect and share official weather observations, weather forecasts and climatological information.

This data and information can help to inform early warning systems so that people can take action to mitigate disasters before they happen.

WMO has contributed to the implementation of Early Warning Systems (EWS) to protect people and livelihoods since its establishment. It is now co-leading international efforts through the United Nations Initiative “Early Warnings for All by 2027” to strengthen Earth system observations and monitoring, predictive and warning capabilities in every region globally.

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