Asia just had a deadly heat wave, and scientists say it could happen again. This is what makes it much more likely.

Hundreds of people have died in Asia in recent weeks as the region sweltered in sweltering temperatures. And a new study determined a leading factor in how it all happened.

Last month, many areas in India saw temperatures well above triple digits. The countries meteorological service says that heat waves are not uncommon between March and June, with May being the “peak month” for extreme weather events. Temperatures in Bhagdora, India last month almost reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit as the India Meteorological Department issued a red alert, which meant that the severe heat was expected to last for more than two days and there was a very high chance of heat-related illnesses.

Elsewhere in the country, it was so hot that schools were canceled, a problem that people in the Philippines also faced. People in Thailand were also asked by officials to stay indoors if possible to avoid the heat, as dozens of people had already died from heat-related illnesses. According to the Associated pressThe April heat killed at least 28 people in Bangladesh, five in India and three in Gaza.

And according to the organization World Weather Attribution, it all comes down to two words: climate change.

Daily life during the heat wave on the outskirts of Kolkata, India
An elderly person bathes along a road on a warm summer day on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, on April 28, 2024.

Sudipta Das/NurPhoto via Getty Images


“The heat wave exacerbated the already precarious conditions faced by internally displaced persons, migrants and people in refugee camps and conflict zones in West Asia,” said a new study from the organization. “… The extreme heat has forced thousands of schools in South and Southeast Asia to close.”

Researchers say that while the type of heat experienced during this period is “not very rare,” it will only be exacerbated by climate change, which is fueled by global warming largely caused by the combustion of fossil fuels.

West Asia is expected to have a extreme heat event once every ten years, and in the Philippines that chance is even smaller, about once every twenty years if El Niño is not in play. In South Asia as a whole, extreme heat is not common.

Bangkok is experiencing extreme heat
A man unloads blocks of ice from a truck during high temperatures in Bangkok, Thailand on Sunday, April 28, 2024.

Andre Malerba/Bloomberg via Getty Images


“An extremely warm April like this is a slightly rarer event, with a 3% chance of happening in a given year – or once every 30 years,” researchers said, adding that observations and data models show that due to the human-induced climate change is creating a “sharp increase in probability and intensity.”

“In the Philippines, the change in probability is so large that the event would have been impossible without human-induced climate change,” they said. “In western Asia, climate change increased the probability of this event by about a factor of 5.”

Average April temperatures in South Asia, which the group has studied twice in the past two years based on other extreme events, “are now about 45 times more likely and 0.85 degrees Celsius hotter,” they found.

“Sounds like a broken record – yeah! But heat is still under-reported, under-recorded and extremely deadly,” says Friederike Otto, who is part of the World Weather Attribution study. social media. “The world is not prepared for today's climate change, let alone the future.”

Extreme heat is “become the silent killer,Ko Barrett, deputy secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said in April.

Heat-related mortality “It is widely under-reported and therefore the true scale of premature deaths and economic costs – in terms of reduced labor productivity, agricultural losses and pressure on the electricity grid – is not accurately reflected in the statistics,” she said.

The World Weather Attribution report came a day earlier than another report from the WMO that found this April was the warmest month ever recorded and the 11th consecutive month of record temperature worldwide.

The average surface air temperature last month was 15.03 degrees Celsius, about 59 degrees Fahrenheit, more than 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial times. Scientists have warned that if the planet experiences sustained temperatures at that 1.5 threshold, it could have significant impacts on weather conditions, leading to global problems around food and water availability, migration and climate change. infrastructure.

“The record temperatures were accompanied by weather conditions with a major impact – including the intense heat in many parts of Asia,” the WMO said. “The heat also had a major impact on agriculture, causing crop damage and reduced yields, as well as education, with holidays having to be extended and schools closed in several countries. countries, affecting millions of students.”

This will take years continued violation of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels for the planet officially means that humans have failed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and have pushed the world into a more disastrous climate era. However, 11 months of record heat – and possibly longer – indicate “early signs that we are dangerously close to exceeding the long-term limit”, according to the United Nations.

“Every fraction of a degree of warming matters. With each additional increase in global warming, changes in extremes and risks become greater,” the international agency said. “…We need to bend the global emissions curve – and the production and consumption of coal, oil and gas – downward from now on. There are a wide range of solutions.”

Arshad R. Zargar contributed to this report.

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