Countries across Asia suffered soaring April temperatures, prompting warnings from scientists that 2023 could set new heat records as climatic patterns change and global warming accelerates.
Temperatures climbed to highs of 45C in Myanmar, 44.5C in India and 41.9C in China, according to the climatologist and weather historian Maximiliano Herrera, with Thailand and Laos breaking all-time high records.
At least 13 people were reported to have died from heat stroke in Mumbai, India, while parts of Bangladesh endured power cuts as electricity demand surged in the unusual conditions. More than 100 weather stations in China recorded all-time high temperatures for April.
Herrera said the ferocious temperatures, which have persisted across parts of Asia for more than a week, amounted to the “worst April heatwave in Asian history ongoing in more than a dozen countries”.
He noted on Friday that record temperatures were also widespread in South America, while Japan was experiencing “exceptional heat”.
India’s Meteorological Department said on Friday that the heatwave was likely to abate from Saturday, after it had recorded “severe” conditions during the week.
Globally, the past eight years have been the warmest on record, with extreme weather events including heatwaves expected to become more frequent and intense as climate change accelerates. Greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 2022 and temperatures are at least 1.1C higher since pre-industrial times.
This year could also mark the return of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is associated with warmer sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific and higher global temperatures.
Given the possibility of an El Niño year, “it could therefore well be that new global records are set in 2023 or 2024,” said Helge Goessling, a climate physicist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany.
“Large parts of south-east Asia, India, China, Australia, and North and South America . . . may be affected by El Niño, with a trend towards stronger heatwaves and, where glaciers are present, increased melting,” he said.
Heatwaves and droughts gripped large swaths of Europe and China in 2022, with Europe experiencing its second warmest year on record and hottest ever summer, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service annual report.
The European Alps suffered a record loss of ice from glaciers, while high temperatures led to record ice sheet melting in Greenland, the observation group said.
China, meanwhile, had its longest-lasting heatwave ever last year, and its hottest ever summer by a margin of more than 0.5C, according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s latest report on the state of the climate.