The Year In Weather Woes: How Climate Change Affected Live In 2023

"Burning Man" Festival 2023
04 September 2023, USA, Black Rock: Undated image shows rainbow seen over the muddy grounds of the “Burning Man” festival. Tens of thousands of visitors to the desert festival “Burning Man” are stranded on the site in the US state of Nevada after heavy rainfall over the weekend. Photo: David Crane/dpa (Photo by David Crane/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Jason Aldean walked off stage in the middle of his July 15 set at the Xfinity Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, after suffering heat stroke that caused him to struggle to continue performing, with the venue later announcing the show would be rescheduled. Just a handful of days later, Aldean’s July 20 concert at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, was postponed because of severe thunderstorms.

This year provided further proof that climate change and its severe weather are here now. From relentless rains in California to wildfires in Canada, concerts and festivals (see here) faced major impacts.

One of the most notable weather-related catastrophes took place at this year’s Burning Man – a week-long event that began Aug. 27 in Black Rock City, Nevada – as heavy rains turned the clay grounds into cement-like mud and tens of thousands of fans were ordered not to leave the grounds.

A post shared via X (formerly known as Twitter) from Burning Man Traffic on Sept. 2 advised attendees “The gate and airport in and out of Black Rock City remain closed. Ingress and egress are halted until further notice. No driving is permitted except emergency vehicles. If you are in BRC, conserve food, water, and fuel, and shelter in a warm, safe space. More updates to come.”

Roads reopened Sept. 3, though some attendees chose to stick around to watch the burning of the man effigy, which was delayed by two days, according to Reuters.
This year more than 30 concerts were affected by severe weather, with 2023 having been the hottest year on record globally, according to the World Meteorological Organization. In early June, shows across New York City were canceled as the city was covered with haze coming in from Canada’s wildfires, turning the sky an apocalyptic orange. In Phoenix, meanwhile, temperatures hit 117 degrees Fahrenheit, forcing Disturbed to cancel a July 22 gig because their equipment couldn’t turn on with those temperatures. In Belvidere, Illinois, one man was killed and more than three dozen injured during a March 31 Morbid Angel concert when a tornado caused the partial collapse of the Apollo Theater’s roof.

Pharrell Williams canceled the last day of his Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach. An April 30 statement blamed “significant impacts to the festival site caused by severe weather, as well as the current and forecasted storms approaching and tornado warning.”

In Madrid, Primavera Sound canceled day one of the festival, with organizers say pre-production was affected by severe weather.

Bonnaroo and Electric Forest both temporarily evacuated attendees from the festival site due to severe weather and lightning, while fans waiting for Louis Tomlinson to perform at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, June 21 encountered an unexpected storm with tennis-ball-sized hail. Seven people were transported to a local hospital for their injuries, and dozens more treated at the scene. Tomlinson’s show was postponed and then ultimately canceled.

More recently, Taylor Swift postponed her Nov. 18 concert in Rio de Janeiro after a 23-year-old fan died during the previous night’s show. Swift made the announcement on Instagram with a note saying: “The decision has been made to postpone tonight’s show due to the extreme temperatures in Rio. The safety and well being of my fans, fellow performers and crew has to and always will come first.”

Paul Bassman, Managing Director at Higginbotham Insurance, previously told Pollstar that artist guarantees due to weather cancellations at outdoor events used to always be covered by the promoter but that responsibility has since shifted to the artist in the case of some of the larger promoters.

As weather becomes seemingly more unpredictable, it’s become more forecastable. As previously reported, festival organizers and tour managers, in particular, are always watching the weather, relying on bespoke services from companies like DTN and its WeatherOps Live Event Services that provide time-sensitive, highly-local forecasts faster and more accurately than would have been possible even a decade ago.

The global concert industry will need to continue to find ways to protect their audiences and artists – and make sustainability (see here) a priority.