Extreme heat in India and Pakistan–and climate change

A forest on fire in Dharmsala, India. Ashwini Bhatia/Associated Press

“India has witnessed extraordinary spikes in temperatures. This year [2022], though, the heat is unrelenting across a vast swath of the country, and it’s raising an urgent question: Is it even possible to protect people for a future of such extreme heat?” Read the entire article — Sengupta, Somini (2022, May 3). An Extraordinary Heat Wave Exposes the Limits of Protecting People. New York Times.

See also — Kumar, Hari & Ives, Mike (2022, April 28). The Extreme Heat Pummeling India and Pakistan Is About to Get Worse. New York Times.

Our climate is changing, and rapidly. The evidence is all around us. One result of our changing climate is the increased frequency of weather and weather-related extremes across the Earth–stifling and dangerous heatwaves, prolonged and profound drought, torrential rain leading to deadly and destructive flooding, inexorable sea level rise, explosive wildfires and then smoke affecting skies, air quality, and health thousands of miles away, lives lost, homes and businesses destroyed, huge economic losses, and on … the consequences touch all of us everywhere. Poor countries, rich countries, poor people, rich people, young, old–we are all affected. But, the poor, the old, the very young, the sick, people of color, minorities–they bear the heaviest burden. The ones with the fewest options. They can’t move, afford or travel to medical care, the ones who have no place to go.

Featured articles:

*Harrington, L.J., Ebi, K.L., Frame, D.J., & Otto, F.E.L. (2022). Integrating attribution with adaptation for unprecedented future heatwaves. Climatic Change 172(2). [PDF]

“Citizens in many countries are now experiencing record-smashing heatwaves that were intensified due to anthropogenic climate change. Whether today’s most impactful heatwaves could have occurred in a pre-industrial climate, traditionally a central focus of attribution research, is fast becoming an obsolete question. The next frontier for attribution science is to inform adaptation decision-making in the face of unprecedented future heat.

“Attribution studies have been crucial in demonstrating that, due to climate change, the properties of heatwaves are worsening many times faster than any other type of extreme weather.”

*Vautard, R., van Aalst, M., Boucher, O., Drouin, A., Haustein, K., Kreienkamp, F., … & Wehner, M. (2020). Human contribution to the record-breaking June and July 2019 heatwaves in Western Europe. Environmental Research Letters, 15(9), 094077. [PDF] [Cited by]

Two extreme heatwaves hit Western Europe in the summer of 2019, with historical records broken by more than a degree in many locations, and significant societal impacts, including excess mortality of several thousand people. The extent to which human influence has played a role in the occurrence of these events has been of large interest to scientists, media and decision makers. However, the outstanding nature of these events poses challenges for physical and statistical modeling. Using an unprecedented number of climate model ensembles and statistical extreme value modeling, we demonstrate that these short and intense events would have had extremely small odds in the absence of human-induced climate change, and equivalently frequent events would have been 1.5 °C to 3 °C colder. For instance, in France and in The Netherlands, the July 3-day heatwave has a 50–150-year return period in the current climate and a return period of more than 1000 years without human forcing. The increase in the intensities is larger than the global warming by a factor 2 to 3. Finally, we note that the observed trends are much larger than those in current climate models.”

See more —

Extreme weather and climate change: the connections and impacts (from Science Bibliographies Online)

Race and class and heat in cities

What will the climate in your city be like in 2050?

How cities are/will be impacted by climate change

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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