Asia experiences unprecedented April heatwave
Asia is experiencing a record-breaking April heatwave this year, causing numerous fatalities and shattering all-time temperature records across several countries. In most of Asia, the heat in March and April has been unprecedented. It is worth noting, however, that April and May are typically the hottest months in South and Southeast Asia before the monsoon rains arrive and provide relief.
- Weather historian Maximiliano Herrera described this heatwave as the worst in Asian history given its footprint, severity, and timing, encompassing at least a dozen countries.
- A drastic weather shift is coming to northern China this week, with temperatures expected to plummet to about 0 °C (32 °F).
A brutal heatwave in April 2023 continues to impact large portions of Asia, setting new temperature records in several countries and causing over a dozen deaths. Countries across Southeast Asia experienced their highest recorded temperatures this week, while the Indian subcontinent has also been severely affected by the searing heat.
In Laos, the city of Luang Prabang reached an all-time high of 42.7 °C (109 °F) on Tuesday, April 18, 2023, as reported by Herrera. The previous all-time record was 42.3 °C (108 °F) recorded at Seno in April 2016.
Over the weekend, Thailand saw its first-ever temperature exceeding 45 °C (113 °F) when the city of Tak reached 45.4 °C (113.7 °F). According to Herrera, using data from the Thai Meteorological Department, large portions of the country have experienced temperatures in the upper 30s to low 40s (°C) since late March.
Thai authorities had issued health alerts earlier in the month for several provinces as the heat index in Bangkok’s Bang Na district was forecasted to reach 50.2 °C (122.4 °F). On Tuesday, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed concern over the “dangerously high temperatures” and stated that temperatures in Bangkok’s Bang Na area “could reach 52.3 °C (126.1 °F).”
In addition to the extreme heat, Thailand has also experienced an intense smoggy season that has spiked pollution levels. Chiang Mai, a popular tourist destination, ranked as the world’s most polluted city for seven consecutive days due to smoke from forest fires and widespread crop burning. At least one hospital in the city reached “full ward capacity” as patients sought treatment for respiratory issues.
Concerns exist that unusually high temperatures in Thailand may persist beyond the summer period, leading to drought and possible crop failure.
Myanmar also set an April temperature record when Kalewa, in the central Sagaing region, reached 44 °C (111 °F) on April 17. On Tuesday, April 18, the hottest place in Myanmar was Bagan with 44.5 °C (112.1 °F).
On April 17, 109 weather stations across 12 provinces broke their April temperature records, according to climatologist Jim Yang. Yuanyang in southeast China, saw temperatures as high as 42.4 °C (108 °F) on April 18, only 0.3 °C (0.5 °F) shy of the country-wide record for April, as reported by Herrera.
Although not record-breaking in most instances, the heat has been widespread and deadly across South Asia.
Countries such as Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh have experienced temperatures above 40 °C (104 °F) for several days. In India’s western Maharashtra state, at least 13 people died from heatstroke after attending a state award ceremony on Sunday, April 16, with 50 to 60 people hospitalized.
On April 18, six cities in northern and eastern India recorded temperatures above 44 °C (111.2 °F) while the capital, Delhi, recorded 40.4 °C (104.7 °F).
Due to the rising temperatures, at least two Indian states, Tripura and West Bengal, ordered schools to close this week. The Indian Ministry of Labor issued an advisory to all states and regions to ensure worker safety during the extreme heat, including provisions for adequate drinking water, emergency ice packs, and frequent rest breaks.
Unusually high temperatures for the time of year spread to Japan and the Korean Peninsula on April 19, with 30 °C (86 °F) Yongwol in South Korea.
Highly unusual temperatures for this month have also been recorded in central Asia, including in Kazakhstan, where 33.6 °C (92.5 °F) was recorded at Taraz, a record for April, and in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The extreme heat across South and Southeast Asia is expected to continue, while much cooler conditions are forecasted for much of China with temperatures expected to drop from around 10 °C (18 °F) above average to 10 °C (18 °F) below average over the weekend.
“A drastic weather shift is coming,” Jim Yang said on April 18. “The temperature in northern China will rise to 30 – 35 °C (86 – 95 °F) after tomorrow, and then plummet to about 0 °C (32 °F). At the same time, there will be blizzards in Northwest China!”
“First there will be sandstorms and then snowstorms,” Yang said.
1 Severe heatwave engulfs Asia causing deaths and forcing schools to close – The Guardian – April 19, 2023
2 Large swathes of Asia are sweltering through record breaking temperatures – CNN – April 19, 2023
Featured image credit: GFS/TropicalTidbits
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