Climate change made extreme April temperatures hotter affecting billions in Asia: Study

Representational photo. (IANS Photo)

Representational photo. (IANS Photo)

New Delhi, May 15 (IANS): Extreme temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius that impacted billions of people across Asia in April were made hotter and more likely by human-caused climate change, according to rapid attribution analysis by an international team of leading climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution group.

The study highlights how heatwaves intensified by climate change are making life much tougher for people living in poverty across Asia and the 1.7 million displaced Palestinians in Gaza.

Asia was hit by severe heatwaves this April. In South and Southeast Asia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam broke records for their hottest April day, and the Philippines experienced its hottest night ever.

In India, temperatures reached as high as 46 degrees.

The heat was also extreme in West Asia, with Palestine and Israel experiencing temperatures above 40 degrees. The month was the hottest April on record globally and the eleventh consecutive month in a row a hottest month record was broken.

Heat-related deaths were widely reported, with at least 28 in Bangladesh, five in India and three in Gaza during April, while surges in heat deaths have also been reported in Thailand and the Philippines this year.

These are only preliminary figures and because heat-related deaths are notoriously underreported, it is likely there were hundreds or possibly thousands of other heat-related deaths in Asia during April.

The heat also led to crop failure, loss of livestock, water shortages, mass die-off of fish, widespread school closures, and the heat has been linked to low voter turn-out in Kerala.

Climate change, caused by burning oil, coal and gas, and other human activities like deforestation, is making heatwaves more frequent, longer and hotter around the world. To quantify the effect of human-caused warming on the extreme temperatures across Asia, scientists analysed weather data and climate models using peer-reviewed methods to compare how these types of events have changed between today’s climate, with approximately 1.2 degrees of global warming, and the cooler pre-industrial climate.

The analysis focused on the periods when the heat was most dangerous in two regions: the three-day average of maximum daily temperatures in a region of West Asia that included Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and the 15-day average of maximum daily temperatures in the Philippines.

The scientists also analysed the possible influence of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation, a naturally occurring climate phenomenon that shifts between El Niño, neutral and La Niña conditions.

The study also analysed historical weather data for a region of South Asia that includes India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. The researchers did not carry out a full attribution analysis for this region as the World Weather Attribution conducted similar studies in 2022 and 2023, and the data from weather observations showed that the attribution results would not be significantly different.

In West Asia, the scientists found that April heatwaves with temperatures above 40 degrees are more frequent due to warming caused by human activities. In today’s climate, with 1.2 degrees of warming, similar heatwaves are expected to occur about once every 10 years.

Climate change made the heat about five times more likely and 1.7 degrees hotter. In the future, extreme temperatures in West Asia could become even more frequent and intense. If warming reaches 2 degrees, as they are expected to in the 2040s or 2050s unless emissions are rapidly halted, similar heatwaves will occur about once every five years and will become another one degree hotter, the study noted.

El Nino does not have an influence on the high temperatures in West Asia.

The study was conducted by 13 researchers, including scientists from universities and meteorological agencies in Malaysia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain.

Mariam Zachariah, Researcher at the Grantham Institute -- Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said: “Climate change is bringing more days with potentially deadly temperatures to Asia every year. This result is unsurprising, but important for highlighting the dangers of extreme heat in Asia.

“Unless the world takes massive, unprecedented steps to reduce emissions and keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, extreme heat will lead to even greater suffering in Asia,” Zachariah added.