The summer of 2002 won’t be soon forgotten. Severe storms wreaked destruction across Central Europe. Dresden, Germany, and Prague in the Czech Republic were among several cities plunged into crisis as government officials declared states of emergency. Northern Italy and Austria were also badly affected. Devastating floodwaters forced tens of thousands to flee their homes, and well over 100 people were killed in Europe. The damage is estimated in the billions for Germany alone.
Floodwaters caught several thousand Russian tourists by surprise in the Black Sea area. Heavy rains in southern Russia caused flooding, leaving more than 100 dead.
Parts of the Mideast and Asia also suffered from the wrath of nature. At least 35 people drowned in flash floods that hit northeastern Iran. Meanwhile millions across Asia abandoned their homes fleeing from monsoons that took about 900 lives. China’s summer floods have already killed nearly 1,000 people this year. In the Americas, the death toll from flooding in Mexico reached some 21 people with about 13,000 homeless.
Severe droughts in the U.S.A.
One of the worst droughts in a half century is presently afflicting America, with some 26 states seriously affected. Parts of Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are suffering severe drought emergencies. Climatologist Mark Svoboda of the National Drought Mitigation Center (University of Nebraska) called this American drought the third worst in U.S. history. The wheat harvest may be the lowest in about 30 years.
From South Carolina to Southern California and from New Mexico to Montana, lots of American real estate has been badly affected by drought. About 75 percent of pasture and rangeland has been categorized as in poor to very poor condition in five Western states. “The National Climate Data Center said that at the end of July, 49 percent of the 48 contiguous states were affected by extreme drought” ( The Guardian, Aug. 14, 2002).
In Nebraska alone, crop losses from drought conditions are estimated at $1.4 billion. Governor Mike Johanns said, “Even some of the folks who lived through the ‘dust bowl’ years [in the 1930s] will say it is as bad as it has ever been” (Reuters, Aug. 8, 2002). One positive note is that farmers in Wisconsin are sending 15 railway boxcars of hay to Colorado ranchers suffering from wildfires and drought.
Drought-stricken Southern Africa
Thankfully, American generosity does not end at its own borders. In spite of bad drought conditions in its own homeland, the United States recently shipped 190,000 tons of food to Southern Africa-in an effort to feed the hungry in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Zimbabwe has its own special problems as President Robert Mugabe seeks to cling to power no matter what the cost. Mr. Mugabe has ordered nearly 3,000 white farmers, for many decades the nucleus of the nation’s agricultural producers, to immediately leave their homes, land and livelihood.
Millions of Zimbabweans are threatened with starvation as a direct result of their government denying food to opposition members while giving it to loyalists. Bad politics is no help to a hungry population. “Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people” (Proverbs 28:15 Proverbs 28:15As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.
American King James Version×).
Death by heat wave
Although there have been pockets of colder weather in some areas, London’s Guardian reported, “The first half of 2002 was the warmest for the Northern Hemisphere in 143 years, according to the British meteorological office” (Aug. 20, 2002). We should not underestimate the effects of heat waves, for they can be a major public health hazard.
For instance, according to the Center of Climatic Research at the University of Delaware, about 1,500 American citizens die annually from causes greatly exacerbated by extreme hot weather. Surprisingly, the figure is about 800 in usually cooler Britain.
New York City suffered a stifling heat wave in August that broke temperature records and severely strained municipal power supplies. Across the continent, 10 Oregon cities also experienced record-breaking heat waves, each at more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
(The public should take common-sense precautions because deaths from strokes and coronaries can more than double on unexpectedly hot days, especially among senior citizens and those already suffering with heart and/or respiratory difficulties.)
Causes of freak weather conditions
Often the first question human beings ask is, “Why?” Why is nature going on such frequent rampages? And what are the causes of freak weather conditions that bring chaos, death, homelessness and economic hardship around the world?
Some scientists blame the weather phenomenon called El Niño. Basically it is the warming of water temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which has a considerable secondary effect on wind and rains in particular. Some say that as the earth continues to warm, El Niño will become a causal factor of freak weather conditions more and more often.
At least a few scientists predict that global warming will turn Britain into a tropical country by 2052-accompanied by monsoon-like downpours and killer heat waves. They point out that British summers are already experiencing violent extremes of temperatures and brutal electric storms. Recently lightning struck four houses in the Milton Keynes area during a long-lasting thunderstorm.
It is not our purpose to categorically define the scientific causes of the recent spate of bad weather. However, we do seek to bring you God’s warning message about the serious shortfalls in our personal conduct and how He may use the natural world to encourage our repentance.
The essential biblical perspective
The Bible is God’s handbook for mankind. It would be odd indeed if its pages said nothing about the weather. Clearly, that is far from the case when we study and analyze its contents. The Creator of the heavens and earth is, by definition, also the Creator of the planet’s weather patterns.
Scripture records that God punished an ancient world gone badly awry for its enormous sins and blatant transgressions by bringing on a global flood that drowned all but eight persons-saved by means of Noah’s ark. Hundreds of years later the Creator corrected the iniquitous northern kingdom of Israel by sending a drought that lasted for three and one half years. He brought about a sudden windstorm in the Mediterranean when the Hebrew prophet Jonah tried to run away from his God-given commission.
The Old Testament also says that God can cause it to rain in one place and not in another. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon offered observations about the earth’s water cycles and the operation of basic weather patterns.
Then in the New Testament, a sudden and severe storm came up while Jesus was fast asleep on a fishing boat. Thinking their lives were in jeopardy, His disciples quickly woke Him up. Christ immediately rebuked the storm and calmed the raging wind and waves. His disciples remarked that even the wind and the sea obeyed Him. Later the apostle Paul prayed to God and a threatening Mediterranean storm was calmed. God had guaranteed the life of every man on board the ship.
The inescapable conclusion from the Bible is the simple fact that God controls the weather! However, that does not mean that He actively intervenes in every storm. Worldwide weather patterns were set in motion at the earth’s creation and His direct interventions are most probably very rare, and then for a specific purpose. However, our Creator reserves the right to intervene in the weather at any time.
Asking God’s help
Reuters news service reported, “They were praying at the St. Patrick parish church in Grand Rapids, Ohio, this week. With hands clasped and eyes cast downwards, about 100 desperate farmers and rural residents gathered at the church on Wednesday to seek divine intervention in an extended drought in Ohio and much of the United States that is fast becoming the worst in the last century.” Certainly, this is a very commendable reaction.
During the mid-1960s, I once attended an autumn religious convention in one of the southern states.
Uncharacteristically, many things had gone wrong during the first five days and the personal behavior of the conventioneers was very far from what it should have been. The weather was simply atrocious and an Atlantic hurricane was threatening us.
Then a minister joined us from another part of America. His first words were: “I understand you have some problems here.” Then he immediately brought a very effective sermon about forgiveness, in his concluding remarks asking all in the audience to forgive each other and even to forgive him, the speaker.
The effect was electric! Our problems vanished, the sky cleared and we had wonderful sunny weather for the last three days. We all knew that God was behind what had happened. An attitude of repentance had taken hold of the whole convention and transformed those in attendance.
That is what needs to happen to our nations today in the beginning years of the 21st century. Frequent and freakishly bad weather is not inevitable. God controls the weather and if our nations would but repent of their massive transgressions against God’s law, good weather would return, dependably and consistently.
But if we continue to ignore the voice of our Creator and persist in our national and personal sins, one can almost guarantee that the worst weather ever is yet ahead of us. wnp
The Bible on Turning to God for Protection From Severe Weather
“Others there are who go to the sea in ships, plying their trade on the wide ocean. These have seen what the Lord has done, His marvelous actions in the deep. At His command the storm-wind rose and lifted the waves high. The seamen were carried up to the skies, then plunged down into the depths; they were tossed to and fro in peril, they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and all their skill was of no avail. So they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.
The storm sank to a murmur and the waves of the sea were stilled. They rejoiced because it was calm, and He guided them to the harbor they were making for. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His enduring love and for the marvelous things He had done for mankind” (Psalms 107:23-31 Psalms 107:23-31 23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commands, and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves thereof.
26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
28 Then they cry to the LORD in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses.
29 He makes the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he brings them to their desired haven.
31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
American King James Version×, Revised English Bible).