‘Endless record heat’ in Asia as highest April temperatures recorded
Asia is experiencing weeks of “endless record heat”, with sweltering temperatures causing school closures and surges in energy use.
Record April temperatures have been recorded at monitoring stations across Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, as well as in China and South Asia.
On Tuesday, four weather stations in Myanmar hit or matched record monthly temperatures, with Theinzayet, in eastern Mon state, reaching the highest, at 43C (109.4F). On Wednesday, Bago, north-east of Yangon, reached 42.2C, matching an all-time record previously recorded in May 2020 and April 2019, according to Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist and weather historian.
There had been “endless record heat in south-east Asia, with weeks of records falling every day,” said Herrera.
In Thailand last weekend the authorities advised people in Bangkok and other areas of the country to stay home to avoid becoming ill. Temperatures hit 42C in the capital on Saturday, and the heat index – meaning what the temperature feels like combined with humidity – reached 54C.
Many still braved the sticky weather – sheltering under umbrellas and carrying fans to stay cool, or seeking respite in air-conditioned malls. In some areas, water has been sprinkled from apartment or university buildings, to ease temperatures and air pollution caused by seasonal agricultural burning.
Rain on Wednesday in Bangkok brought respite from the heat, and the authorities have said they believe the hot season has now peaked.
The hot weather has contributed to record electricity consumption in Thailand, with the country consuming more than 39,000 megawatts on 6 April – higher than the previous record of 32,000 megawatts in April last year.
In the Philippines, managing the heat is a particular challenge because the school calendar shifted during the pandemic, meaning students now spend the hottest months of the year in their classrooms. Hundreds of schools have switched to distance learning to prevent students from falling ill, while one teacher’s group has called for shorter teaching times and smaller class sizes to ease conditions.
Last month, more than 100 students were treated in hospital in Laguna, south-east of Manila, due to dehydration after taking part in a fire drill when temperatures were between 39C and 42C.
Globally, 2022 ranked as one of the hottest years on recorded, and the past eight years were collectively the hottest documented by modern science. It is believed that a return of the El Niño weather phenomenon this year will cause temperatures to rise even further.
“The poorest of the poor are going to [suffer] the most. Especially, it is devastating for the farming community, the people who are dependent on agriculture or fishing,” said Dr Fahad Saeed, regional lead for South Asia and the Middle East at Climate Analytics, a climate science policy institute “The heat is not foreign to this part of land,” he said, but added that temperatures were rising beyond the limits of people’s adaptability.
In Bangladesh, temperatures rose above 40C in the capital, Dhaka, earlier this month, marking the hottest day in 58 years and causing road surfaces to melt.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (Icimod), an intergovernmental group, has raised particular concern about the impact of global heating on the Hindu Kush Himalaya region.
The region holds the third largest body of frozen water in the world, and is warming at double the global average, according to the Icimod. “In the most optimistic scenario, limiting global warming to 1.5C, the region stands to lose one third of its glaciers by 2100 – creating huge risk to mountain communities, ecosystems and nature and the quarter of humanity downstream,” said Deepshikha Sharma, a Climate and Environment Specialist at Icimod.
“Human-induced climate change is the major cause of the growing number and ferocity of heat-waves we’re seeing across Asia. These signal to the fact that the climate emergency is here for this region,” said Sharma, who called for faster emissions reductions and increased investment to help protect areas adapt.
cover photo:Workers move blocks of ice into a storage unit at a market during heatwave conditions in Bangkok. Photograph: Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images