Geneva: Extreme heat which gripped large parts of India and Pakistan was made 30 times more likely because of climate change, according to a new rapid attribution study by climate scientists.
The heat was prolonged and widespread and coupled with below-average rainfall, impacting hundreds of millions of people in one of the most densely populated parts of the world.
The national meteorological and hydrological departments in both countries have working closely with health and disaster management agencies to save lives, in line with the WMO drive to strengthen early warnings and early action and to implement heat-health action plans.
On May 15, the India Meteorological Department said that numerous observing stations reported temperatures of between 45°C (113°F) and 50°C (122 °F). This followed a heatwave at the end of April and early May, at which temperatures reached 43-46 °C.
Temperatures also hit 50°C in Pakistan. The Pakistan Meteorological Department said that daytime temperatures were between 5°C and 8°C above normal in large swathes of the country. The hot, dry weather impacted water supplies, agriculture and human and animal health. In the mountainous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkwa, the unusual heat enhanced the melting of snow and ice and triggered at least one glacial lake outburst flood.
Because of climate change, the probability of an event such as that in 2022 has increased by a factor of about 30, said the study.
"Heatwaves have multiple and cascading impacts not just on human health, but also on ecosystems, agriculture, water and energy supplies and key sectors of the economy. The risks to society underline why the World Meteorological Organization is committed to ensuring that multi-hazard early warning services reach the most vulnerable," said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas in a press release on Tuesday.
"The extreme heat in India and Pakistan is consistent with what we expect in a changing climate. Heatwaves are more frequent and more intense and starting earlier than in the past," he said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its Sixth Assessment Report, said that heatwaves and humid heat stress will be more intense and frequent in South Asia this century.