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How April heatwaves are linked to climate change

A new study shows that April's heatwaves were made at least 30 times more likely due to human-caused climate change

Climate change made record-breaking deadly heatwaves in Bangladesh, India, Laos and Thailand. (Photo by Money SHARMA / AFP)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 18.05.2023  |  03:08 PM IST

Parts of India have been experiencing intense heat since April, with several northern and eastern cities recording maximum temperatures above 44°C on 18 April. Now, a new report by climate scientists has revealed that last month’s record-breaking heatwaves were made at least 30 times more likely due to human-caused climate change.

A study by World Weather Attribution, conducted by a group of leading climate scientists, has shown that the record-breaking heatwaves in Bangladesh, India, Laos and Thailand were exacerbated by the climate crisis, according to a report in the Press Trust of India (PTI).

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The study also highlighted that south Asia’s high vulnerability, known as a heatwave hotspot, worsened the impacts of the heatwave. During April, parts of south and southeast Asia struggled through an intense heatwave, reaching temperatures exceeding 42 degrees Celsius in Laos and 45 degrees Celsius in Thailand.

This heat resulted in many hospitalisations, infrastructure damage, wildfires, and school closures, the PTI report adds. The adverse consequences of climate change include more frequent and hotter heat waves.

To study the link between climate change and the heatwaves, scientists compared the current climate, with approximately 1.2 degrees Celsius of global warming since the late 1800s, to historical climate conditions using peer-reviewed methodologies. For this, they analysed weather data and computer model simulations.

The analysis focused on the maximum temperatures and heat index over four consecutive days in April in two regions: south and east India, Bangladesh, and all of Thailand and Laos. The index, which accounts for temperatures and humidity, presented an accurate understanding of how heatwave affects people, according to the PTI report. The results showed that climate change made the humid heatwave in both regions at least 30 times more likely.

These rising temperatures call for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If emissions are not controlled, scientists predict a two-degree temperature increase within the next 30 years, which will cause adverse heat events to occur at least once every two years, the report adds. In the past, these intense waves occurred in India once a century, on average. Currently, they are expected about every five years.

Furthermore, for the first time, global temperatures are more likely than not to breach 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming within the next five years, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned on Wednesday, as reported by Reuters.

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Commenting on it, Leon Hermanson of the Met Office Hadley Centre said that even temporarily touching 1.5C is "an indication that as we start having these years with 1.5C happening more and more often, than we are getting closer to having the actual long-term climate be on that threshold," the Reuters report said.

This also shows that the world has failed to make sufficient progress on combating climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

(With inputs from agencies)

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