India among Asian countries hit by heatwave in 2023: UN report

World Tuesday 23/April/2024 15:44 PM
India among Asian countries hit by heatwave in 2023: UN report

Geneva/Bangkok: Asia was among the world's most disaster-hit region from weather, climate and water hazards in 2023, the United Nations said on Tuesday, with floods and storms the chief cause of casualties.

Floods and storms caused the highest number of reported casualties and economic losses in Asia, while the impact of heatwaves became more severe, according to a report launched by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in Bangkok.

In 2023, over 80 per cent of reported hydrometeorological hazards in Asia were flood and storm events, the report said.
According to the 'The State of the Climate in Asia 2023' report, prolonged heatwaves affected South and South-East Asia in early summer. In India, severe heatwaves in April and June resulted in about 110 fatalities due to heatstroke.

In 2023, the mean temperature over Asia was 0.91 degree Celsius above the 1991-2020 reference period, the second highest on record. Many parts of the region experienced extreme heat events last year.

Precipitation is a key climate parameter, essential for society in terms of providing water for drinking and domestic purposes, agriculture, industry and hydropower. Variations in precipitation also drive major climate events such as droughts and floods.

In 2023, substantial precipitation deficits in the region were observed in the Turan Lowland (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan); the Hindu Kush (Afghanistan, Pakistan); the Himalayas; around the Ganges and lower course of the Brahmaputra Rivers (India and Bangladesh); the Arakan Mountains (Myanmar); and the lower course of the Mekong River.

Precipitation was below normal in the Himalayas and in the Hindu Kush mountain range and the rains associated with the Indian summer monsoon were insufficient.

Elaborating on the several extreme precipitation events that took place in 2023, the report mentions that in July and August last year there were landslides in India due to intense monsoon rains.

"In August 2023, widespread floods and landslides struck multiple states in India, including Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, claiming 25 lives and causing extensive damage to infrastructure and agriculture," it said.

The onset of the Indian summer monsoon was delayed in 2023. The Indian summer monsoon seasonal rainfall (ISMR), averaged over India as a whole, was 94 per cent of its climatological normal for the 1971-2020 period, the WMO report said.

Below-normal rainfall during the Indian summer monsoon season led to a precipitation deficit in many parts of the Indian subcontinent. The Indian summer monsoon seasonal rainfall, averaged over India from June to September, was about 6 per cent below the 1971-2000 average (see also Asian monsoon section). For the second consecutive year, certain regions in south-west India, the Ganges catchment, and the lower course of the Brahmaputra received less-than-normal precipitation.

Due to emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases resulting from human activities, the global ocean has warmed. It has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the climate system, making climate change irreversible on centennial to millennial timescales. Ocean warming contributes to about 40 per cent of the observed global mean sea-level rise and alters ocean currents. It also indirectly alters storm tracks, increases ocean stratification and can lead to changes in marine ecosystems.

In 2023, the global average sea level continued to rise at a sustained rate (3.43 +- 0.3 mm/year over the period from January 1993 to May 2023) in response to ocean warming (via thermal expansion) and the melting of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets. However, the rate of rise is not the same everywhere.

Both Asian parts of the north-west Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean are warming at a mean rate comparable to the global rate, the analysis showed.

In 2023, the global average sea level continued to rise at a sustained rate (3.43 +- 0.3 mm/year over the period from January 1993 to May 2023.

"Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms. Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies, and, most importantly, human lives" said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo.

"Yet again, in 2023, vulnerable countries were disproportionately impacted. For example, tropical cyclone Mocha, the strongest cyclone in the Bay of Bengal in the last decade, hit Bangladesh and Myanmar" said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, executive secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and underscored the the importance of regional approaches for early warning of transboundary hazards.

ESCAP and WMO, worked in partnership to produce the report.

According to the report, the global annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in the year 2023 was the second highest on record , 0.91 degree Celsius [0.84 degree Celsius-0.96 degree Celsius] above the 1991-2020 average and 1.87 degree Celsius [1.81 degree Celsius-1.92 degree Celsius] above the 1961-1990 average. Particularly above average temperatures were recorded from western Siberia to central Asia and from eastern China to Japan. Japan and Kazakhstan each had record warm years.

Average temperatures were below normal in parts of the inland Indian Peninsula, it said.

Even the sea was not spared from rising mercury. "The sea surface in the areas of the Kuroshio current system (west side of the North Pacific Ocean basin), the Arabian Sea, the Southern Barents Sea, the Southern Kara Sea, and the South-Eastern Laptev Sea is warming more than three times faster than the globally averaged sea surface temperature," according to the WMO analysis.

Warming of the upper-ocean (0 m-700 m) is particularly strong in the North-Western Arabian Sea, the Philippine Sea and the seas east of Japan, more than three times faster than the global average; it further stated.

Many parts of the region experienced extreme heat in 2023. Prolonged heatwaves affected South and South-East Asia in early summer, the report stated. A major and prolonged heatwave affected much of South-East Asia in April and May, extending as far west as Bangladesh and eastern India.

Glaciers in High-Mountain Asia have lost significant mass over the past 40 years, at an accelerating rate. In 2023, record-breaking high temperatures and drier conditions in the Eastern Himalayas and the Tien Shan (mountain range) exacerbated mass loss, the WMO report said.

Pointing out that lightning is a significant hazard that claims numerous lives each year, the WMO report said that in India, in recent years, lightning accompanied by thunderstorms has been a leading cause of fatalities. In 2023, thunderstorms and lightning claimed around 1200 lives in various parts of the country.

Approximately 80 per cent of WMO Members in the region provide climate services to support disaster risk reduction activities. However, there is a gap in climate projections and tailored products (provided by less than 50 per cent of Members in WMO Regional Association II (Asia)) that are needed to inform risk management and adaptation to and mitigation of climate change and its impacts.