Heatwaves in India and Pakistan have been made thirty times more likely by climate change

Temperatures up to 50 °C in places and too little rain: this is what millions of Indians and Pakistanis have experienced in recent weeks, before a lull in recent days. This initial heat wave, which has hit the region since March, was made thirty times more likely by climate change, scientists say in a study.

World Weather Attribution (WWA) scientists form a pioneering network of linking extreme events to climate change. It writes in their studies that if heat waves are not uncommon in this region of the world, the onset, duration, and drought observed during these episodes make them extraordinary events.

An event that might happen every 100 years

Events of such intensity now have the possibility of occurring once every 100 years, in our world where average temperatures have risen by 1.2°C since pre-industrial levels, WWA said.

Without anthropogenic climate change, it is likely that this event will occur once every 3,000 years, explains Friederike Otto, of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London. And this event will be 1°C cooler on average, WWA said.

90 killed and impacted wheat harvest

The extreme heat has hit people and hard plants. It killed 90 people and caused power cuts and water shortages for millions. Moreover, since 2010, heat waves have killed more than 6,500 people in India. This heat is accompanied by a rainfall deficit, with 62% less rain in Pakistan in March, and 71% less in India, in what is considered the wheat basket of Southeast Asia. He encouraged India to ban wheat exports in the face of falling production.

“In the countries for which we have data, heat waves are the deadliest extreme weather event. At the same time, these are the types of extreme events that are increasing the most in a warming world,” Friederike Otto warned.

“Attribution Science”

Until recently, scientists had avoided attributing specific events to climate change, although global warming is now known to cause earlier, more frequent and more intense heat waves.

In recent years, methods have been developed by scientists to make connections between extreme events and climate change. This is “attribution science”. Last July, for example, the World Weather Attribution concluded that the heat dome hitting North America was made 150 times more likely by human-caused climate change.

Serena Hoyles

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