Heatwaves scorched parts of Asia as Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, China, and parts of South Asia recorded weeks of record temperatures.
In April Myanmar’s eastern Mon state recorded 43°C, the highest temperature ever recorded in April. Similar temperatures also hit the Philippines, with hundreds of schools being forced to switch to distance learning because of the extreme heat.
Thailand’s capital of Bangkok saw 42°C but the heat index — what the temperature actually feels like when combined with humidity — was 54°C. Authorities warned people to stay inside or risk becoming ill. The Northwestern city of Tak became the first place in the country to ever reach 45°C ever.
Last weekend, Laos reported a record-setting temperature of 43.5°C, exceeding the previous record of 42.7°C that had only been set in April. At the same time in Vietnam temperatures reached 44°C in the northern district of Tuong Duong, setting another record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the country.
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— Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) April 24, 2023
While Monsoon rains in South-East Asia are expected to bring temperatures down in the coming weeks, the heatwave is a warning of what’s to come for the rest of the world.
According to the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) the past eight years were the warmest ever recorded globally. Last year was one of the hottest ever with deadly heatwaves hitting Europe and parts of America and Asia. This was despite temperatures being kept comparatively lower by a three-year-long La Niña — a naturally occurring cooling climate pattern.
The WMO has now warned that an El Niño — La Niña’s warming opposite — is forming. It is expected to bring increased heat and a high likelihood of new record temperatures.
WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said: “We just had the eight warmest years on record, even though we had a cooling La Niña for the past three years and this acted as a temporary brake on global temperature increase. The development of an El Niño will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records.”
According to the WMO, 2016 is the warmest year on record because of the “double whammy” of a very powerful El Niño event and human-induced warming from greenhouse gases.
The newly forming El Niño could cause a similarly record-breaking year.
El Niño is also expected to cause increased rainfall in some parts of the world and extreme drought in others, and typically brings an increased risk of hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
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The Met Office, UK’s national meteorological service, has already predicted that 2023 will be “one of the Earth’s hottest years on record.”
The Met Office’s Dr Nick Dunstone said that “the global temperature over the last three years has been influenced by the effect of a prolonged La Niña” however 2023 will see “an end to the three consecutive years of La Niña with a return to relative warmer conditions in parts of the tropical Pacific.”
“This shift is likely to lead to global temperature in 2023 being warmer than 2022,” Dunstone added.
WMO Update: Prepare for #ElNiño
We just had the 8 warmest years on record despite cooling La Niña for 3 straight years.
An El Niño event will most likely lead to a new spike in global heating and increase the chance of breaking temperature records.
— World Meteorological Organization (@WMO) May 3, 2023
While natural occurring weather patterns like El Niño and La Niña can increase temperatures or keep them comparatively lower respectively, the effect of climate change has been causing a long-lasting increase in temperatures.
The Met Office noted that 2023 is predicted to be the 10th consecutive year with global temperatures at least 1°C above pre-industrial levels.
A study published last year in Communications Earth & Environment by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Washington predicted that dangerous heatwaves will triple across the world by 2100 even if the world meets the 2°C cap of global warming (compared to pre-industrial levels) set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
It concluded that the number of days of dangerous heat (at least 39.4°C) in mid-latitude countries like the US, China, Japan and Western Europe will more than double by 2050.
In the tropics, dangerous heat would occur most days of the year and days of extremely dangerous heat (at least 51°C) would double.
With such a deadly prediction, keeping temperature rises to 2°C and ideally even lower is essential.
Thankfully, by working on a systematic adaptation to heat, the consequences of heatwaves can be minimised. This includes working on removing urban heat traps which are responsible for causing mortality during heatwaves. Beyond that, by each sector, organisation, and company looking at its practices and solutions to addressing heat a more healthy environment can be created to keep people safe in the coming heatwaves.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Plant in the sun. Featured Photo Credit: Pixabay.