May 23, 2022 Wayne Northey

Climate Change Fuels Heat Wave in India and Pakistan, Scientists Find

Warming since preindustrial times has made the extreme heat in South Asia, now in its third month, at least 30 times more likely.

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By Henry Fountain

May 23, 2022

image above: Credit…Harish Tyagi/EPA, via Shutterstock

WN: Little more to say . . .

excerpts:

Global warming has made the severe heat wave that has smothered much of Pakistan and India this spring hotter and much more likely to occur, climate scientists said Monday.

. . . like other heat waves, this one shows that the effects tend to fall disproportionately on the poor.Roop Singh

They said that the chances of such a heat wave increased by at least 30 times since the 19th century, before widespread emissions of planet-warming gases began. On average the heat wave is about 1 degree Celsius, or about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than a similar event would have been in those preindustrial times, the researchers said.

“Climate change is a real game changer when it comes to heat waves,” said Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London. “It’s really a major factor.” Dr. Otto is an author of a report on the heat wave by World Weather Attribution, a collaborative effort among scientists to examine extreme weather events for the influence, or lack thereof, of climate change.

The relentless heat, with temperatures soaring beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit for days, particularly in Northwestern India and Southeastern Pakistan, has killed at least 90 people, led to flooding from glacial melting in the Himalayas, contributed to power shortages and stunted India’s wheat crop, helping to fuel an emerging global food crisis.

The study found that a heat wave like this one now has about a 1 in 100 chance of occurring in any given year. Before warming began, the chances would have been at least about 1 in 3,000. And the chances would increase to as much as 1 in 5, the researchers said, if the world reaches 2 degrees Celsius of warming, as it is on track to do unless nations sharply reduce emissions. The world has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century.

The ban [on wheat exports], coupled with the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on wheat exports from there, has international agencies concerned about the potential of a global food shortage.

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