Climate change makes heatwaves in Asia ’30 times more likely’

Climate change makes April heatwaves in Asia '30 times more likely'
A horse is drinking water during a hot summer day in Kolkata, India on 13 April 2023, credit: Sudipta Das/NurPhoto via Reuters

April heatwaves in South Asia are “30 times more likely” due to human-induced climate change, according to a recent study by international scientists with the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group.

Large parts of the region experienced temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) last month. Scientists studied heat and humidity levels in parts of India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Laos, and concluded they were at least 2 degrees (Celsius) hotter due to climate change.

In Bangladesh, Dhaka observed the highest maximum temperature recorded in decades of 40.6°C on April 15. In India, several cities recorded maximum temperatures above 44°C on April 18. Thailand recorded its highest-ever temperature of 45.4°C on April 15 in the city of Tak.

These extreme temperatures led to widespread infrastructure damage and power shortages, and a spike in heat stroke cases.

According to the WWA scientists, the humid heatwaves that used to occur once a century in Bangladesh and India are now expected every five years. The situation is even more alarming in Thailand and Laos, where such heat would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change.

The study also revealed that once humidity was factored in, the estimated heat index in some parts of the region was close to the “extremely dangerous” level of 54C, posing significant health risks to animals and humans throughout South Asia.

While some regions have implemented “heat action plans” to provide emergency healthcare and water or even shut down schools in response to the heat, others remain ill-prepared. Scientists warn that access to resources required to cope with extreme temperatures is limited in many areas.

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