Extreme Heat 100% More Likely with Climate Change

Extreme Heat 100% More Likely with Climate Change

Temperatures in New Delhi went above a record-breaking 49 degrees Celsius over the weekend. In neighboring Pakistan, the city of Jacobabad was a sweltering 51 degrees Celcius (124 degrees Fahrenheit). Extreme heatwaves in both countries were made 100 times more likely because of climate change, according to a new report by the UK's Met Office. That analysis was based on record-breaking heat in 2010, which current temperatures are set to break. Put another way: this kind of sweltering, dangerous heat would have happened once every 300 years without human-caused climate change. Now it’s likely to occur every three years.

BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022.

ABC News (Australia): India's capital Delhi hit by record temperatures during fifth heatwave since March, May 16, 2022.

South China Morning Post: Pakistani city on ‘front line of climate change’ sees record temperatures, May 18, 2022.

Why This Matters

Heatwaves are the deadliest extreme weather events. This current heatwave, which started in March, has upended people’s daily lives and is the cause of 26 recorded deaths. “Temperatures topping 40°C (104°F) across the country have put millions at risk for heat-related illnesses, decimated wheat crops, intensified a power crisis, and interrupted schooling,” Reuters reports. India’s annual reported death toll from extreme heat is 300 to 400 per year, but experts believe it could be many times more.

"Spells of heat have always been a feature of the region's pre-monsoon climate during April and May. However, our study shows that climate change is driving the heat intensity of these spells making record-breaking temperatures 100 times more likely," Met Office's Nikos Christidis, who produced the analysis, was quoted in a press release. "By the end of the century, increasing climate change is likely to drive temperatures of these values on average every year."

DW: Time is running out | WMO warns 1.5 degree threshold could be topped by 2026, May 18, 2022.

PBS: India's deadly heatwave shows the real-world effects of climate change, May 8, 2022

MSNBC: We Must Pay Attention To ‘Urgent Crisis’ Of Extreme Heat Events, May 23, 2022.

Extreme Supercharged Weather

In addition to the heatwaves, the flood-prone northeast region of India, floods and mudslides have impacted 700 villages; a staggering 400,000 people have been displaced; 200,000 people are trapped in the Dima Hasao district with no way in or out; and 11 are reported dead. However, India is not alone. China is also currently facing a devastating flood season, said to be “relatively worse” and “more extreme” than average by its National Climate Center.

Meanwhile, other recent studies have drawn the link between extreme weather and climate change. According to one analysis by World Weather Attribution, heavy rains and flash flooding last month in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa were made more likely and more intense because of global warming. Scientists have also said the extreme “heat dome” that blanketed the US Pacific Northwest last year would have been “virtually impossible” without human-created climate change.

PBS: India's early heat wave has major implications for agriculture, May 10, 2022.

Guardian: Climate change is making floods worse | Here's how, October 19, 2021.

NASA: Climate Spiral, March 15, 2022.