For a second or two, it teeters on the raging torrent’s edge. And then the house—the entire building—pivots and slides into the river. “Woah!” gasp witnesses filming the moment as they watch the structure tumble and then float away. A devastating flood has just ripped through Yellowstone National Park in the western United States.
“There’s some pretty extraordinary stuff happening, stuff that’s not common at all,” says Paul Pastelok, lead long-range forecaster at AccuWeather, as he lists this and other examples of extreme weather events cropping up in the US this year.
Already 2022 has brought powerful floods, terrifying wildfires, and unusually early heat waves globally—notably those in India and Pakistan, Europe, the US, and parts of East Asia. Freak hail storms have battered Germany and Mexico City, and US forecasters expect an above-normal hurricane season.
Meteorologists say that many of these events are part of a troubling trend. While 2022 is not yet the worst year on record for extreme weather, we are currently witnessing the impact of climate change and the cascading effect of one problematic weather condition influencing another.
Take the Yellowstone flood as an example, says Pastelok. While still the subject of meteorological investigation, there are signs that it was caused in part by a long winter that extended into the spring, packing the mountains with snow and ice, and then an unusual, sudden warm surge in May.
“The first melt filled the rivers, and then the second warm phase in early June here just knocked it out of their banks,” he explains.
Pastelok also highlights the three derechos—large, long-lasting thunderstorms that move in a relatively straight line—that have hit the US so far this year. Weirdly, two of them have moved in a southwest-to-northeast direction, which is “very unusual,” he says. One of these derechos wreaked havoc in Canada, causing 11 deaths and cutting power to 1 million homes.