Weather Disruptions Distinguished the Summer of 2023 Travel Season

Posted: September 29, 2023 9:00 am

It was a rough summer travel season this year due to a number of environmental factors. Here is a look back at the challenges that travelers faced during the summer of 2023.

Hottest Month on Record

You were certainly not imagining that it simply felt hotter this summer. After examining the data, NASA recently declared that July 2023 was officially the hottest record on Earth since record keeping began in 1880.

Nearly everyone in the Northern Hemisphere got in on the heat. Southern Europe experienced temperatures that climbed to all-time highs, creating dangerous conditions for travelers in an unknown area not accustomed to this type of weather.

Red alert heat warnings were common in Italy as the temperature soared to unprecedented levels. Tourists in Athens hoping to see the famous Acropolis were met with closed signs during the peak heating hours.

The heat was not contained in Europe. The U.S. also experienced the extreme heat, blamed on several deaths throughout some of the country’s most prolific national parks. Grand Canyon National Park posted QR codes at trailheads to provide hikers with information on where to find shelter from the heat and water.

Officials in Death Valley National advised that hikers not take to the trails after 10 am. This same park was closed completely later in the summer because of flash flooding.

The heat was actually an attraction in itself in China. Travelers flocked to the Flaming Mountains located in the western province of Xinjiang to bask in the sweltering heat from the red sandstone cliffs as a part of what is now known as “extreme heat tourism.”

Wildfires Stymie Travel Plans

It is no surprise to learn that the extreme heat went hand in hand with an increase in wildfires in many parts of the world. Some of the most popular travel destinations of the summer were dealing with the impacts of wildfires and smoke throughout the season.

The wildfires got their start exceptionally early in Canada, eventually creating what was the worst fire season in the country’s history. Over 1,000 blazes have sprung up since April, forcing the evacuations of thousands of people in British Columbia, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. The popular summer spot of Kelowna saw numerous travel restrictions because of the fires.

The smoke generated from the fires traveled thousands of miles across the border of the U.S. This translated to smoky and hazy days at regular intervals for many areas  in the northern half of the nation.

Tragedy struck the Hawaiian island of Maui in August when a wildfire tore through the busy tourist town of Lahaina. Nearly 100 people have been confirmed dead with more still missing. The inferno also destroyed many of Lahaina’s most historic and culturally significant landmarks, including the Wo Hing Museum, the Lahaina Heritage Museum, and the Baldwin Home Museum.

On the other side of the pond, fires in Portugal, Greece, Spain, and Turkey also brought travel to a standstill. The Greek island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean was greatly impacted after a fire started on July 18 and forced the evacuation of thousands of vacationers.

The Spanish island of Tenerife also experienced a devastating spate of wildfires in August. Over 12,000 people had to flee their homes as a result of the fires. The regions of Puglia, Abruzzo, Sicily, and Calabria in Spain were dealing with their own set of evacuations because of wildfires spreading across the area.

Rising Ocean Water Temperatures

Land temperatures were not the only mercury readings that hit record levels this past summer. Ocean water temperatures also made it more challenging to take a refreshing dip in some corners of the world’s oceans. For instance, Florida’s Manatee Bay recorded a temperature of over 101 degrees on July 25. The average reading in this body of water during this time of the year is about 80 degrees.

Not only do readings of this magnitude make it uncomfortable to swim but it also threatens marine life. The Coral Restoration Foundation reported a 100% coral mortality rate at Sombrero Reef, located in the Florida Keys. This extinction is devastating for the marine life that feed on this coral.

The Mediterranean Sea also experienced record high water readings in excess of 83 degrees at the end of July.

Tropical Weather Events

Tropical weather events created chaos for travelers in many parts of the world. In the U.S., a rare West Coast event spoiled many vacation plans in areas such as San Diego and Palm Springs when Hurricane Hilary hit in August. The resort town of Palm Springs took in more rain in an hour than it typically does over the course of the entire year.

Hurricane Idalia struck the Big Bend region of Florida before moving through the southern U.S. just prior to Labor Day weekend. Idalia was a Category 4 storm when it came onshore, fueled by the exceptionally warm water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was also a terrible summer for tropical weather across Southeast Asia. This region saw the formation of three typhoons that ushered in record rainfall and damaging winds. Several fatalities were reported as a result of the widespread flooding and landslides.

Typhoon Lan complicated travel plans across the southern Wakayama prefecture of Japan on August 15. Numerous flight disruptions and train cancelations were an issue due to the inclement conditions.

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