Extreme heatwaves are sweeping countries across Asia, setting the highest seasonal temperatures ever recorded and raising concerns about adaptation to accelerating climate change. After a heat wave swept the continent in April, temperatures soared again in late May, which is usually the start of the cooler rainy season.
Although spring usually brings high temperatures to Southeast Asia, this year's heat set records across the region. The heat was so extreme that temperatures exceeded 46 degrees Celsius in many places, posing a serious threat to human health.
Heatwaves Engulf Southeast Asia
In April and May, several countries in Southeast Asia faced tense days due to a threatening heat wave. Several countries in Southeast Asia were hit by extreme temperatures that caused severe heat stress. Temperatures in Myanmar reached a critical point of 45 degrees Celsius, while Singapore reached 37 degrees Celsius, Cambodia 41 degrees Celsius and Laos 43.5 degrees Celsius in May 2023.
Meanwhile, Vietnam's meteorological authorities have warned of the risk of house fires due to a surge in electricity consumption. Temperatures are expected to rise, and weather warnings also warn of the risk of dehydration, fatigue and heat stroke. Vietnam also broke its hottest temperature record in early May with 44.2 degrees Celsius. Even on June 1, Vietnam broke the record for the hottest June temperature in history by reaching 43.8 degrees Celsius.
Thailand even experienced more than 20 days (April-May) with temperatures above 46 degrees Celsius, which is considered extreme and life-threatening not only for those with health problems, but also for healthy people who are not used to extreme heat. Neighboring Laos was not far behind with highs of 43.5 degrees Celsius on two consecutive days in May. Seasonal temperature records also continued to be broken, with Singapore recording its hottest temperature in 40 years.
The heat wave that swept across Southeast Asia in April and May caused chaos everywhere. Hospitals were filled with patients suffering from extreme heat, roads were destroyed, fires raged, and schools were forced to close. According to the latest World Weather Attribution report, the number of deaths caused by the heat wave is still unknown.
The Latest Research
Climate researchers have concluded that the April heat wave was "30 times more likely" to be caused by climate change, and the current temperature spike is likely influenced by the same factors, according to Chaya Vaddhanaphuti, a research team from Chiang Mai University in Thailand. A study published in April by the University of Bristol also warned that areas that have not previously experienced extreme heat are at high risk.
According to the World Weather Attribution (WWA) report, this heat wave is an extremely rare event, occurring once every 200 years, and is almost impossible without human-induced climate change. Data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service also shows that these six Southeast Asian countries recorded daily temperatures close to 40 degrees Celsius during the April-May period, exceeding the threshold considered dangerous.
This incident highlights once again our vulnerability to increasingly extreme climate change. As temperatures continue to rise and weather spirals out of control, countries in Southeast Asia are on the front lines of the deadly consequences. If the world continues on its current path, with an average temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius this century, some 2 billion people will be exposed to dangerous, health-threatening temperatures.
If serious action is not taken to address global warming, the effects will be deadly. According to WWA research, if the Earth's temperature continues to rise by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), humid heat waves like the recent one could become ten times more frequent.
The dire projections from the UN's Human Climate Horizons show the deadly consequences if we don't act now. Over the next two decades, Thailand is expected to experience 30 deaths per million people due to unbearable heat. This figure rises dramatically to 130 deaths per million people by the end of the century. These figures reflect the deadly effects of a rapidly changing climate.
But Thailand is not the only country at risk. Myanmar faces an even greater threat, with projections ranging from 30 to 520 deaths per million people. Cambodia is not spared either, with estimates of 40 and 270 deaths per million people.
Source: CNN | Reuters | Earth.org