Climate crisis makes extreme Indian heatwaves 100 times more likely – study

Record-breaking heatwaves in north-west India and Pakistan have been made 100 times more likely by the climate crisis, according to scientists. The analysis means scorching weather once expected every three centuries is now likely to happen every three years.

The region is currently suffering intense heat, with the Indian capital New Delhi setting a new record on Sunday above 49C and the peak temperature in Pakistan reaching 51C. Millions of people are suffering from crop losses, and water and power outages.

Climate scientists can link global heating to extreme weather events, showing that the impacts are damaging lives around the world right now, even with a 1.1C rise above pre-industrial global average temperatures.

Another study released on Wednesday showed the extreme rainfall that hit Japan during Typhoon Hagibis in 2019 was made 67% more likely by global heating, and that human-caused climate change increased the storm’s damage by $4bn (£3.2bn). Other recent analyses showed devastating floods in South Africa and Europe, heatwaves in North America and the storms in south-east Africa were supercharged by the climate crisis.

The new analysis by the UK’s Met Office assessed the record-breaking temperatures in north-west India and Pakistan in April and May 2010. The current heat in the region is on track to surpass this and set a new record.

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The scientists used 14 computer models to assess two scenarios, one was the heated world of today and the other was a world with no human-caused climate change. They found the 2010 heatwave was 100 times more likely in our hotter world. The analysis also found that such extreme heatwaves will happen almost every year by the end of the century, even if carbon emissions decline.

“Spells of heat have always been a feature of the region’s pre-monsoon climate during April and May,” said Dr Nikos Christidis, at the Met Office. “However, our study shows that climate change is driving the heat intensity of these spells.”

Paul Hutcheon at the Met Office said: “Maximum temperatures are again likely to reach 50C in some spots later in the week or into the weekend, with continued very high overnight temperatures.”

A team of scientists used the same comparison method to show how global heating had exacerbated Typhoon Hagibis. “The negative consequences of the continued burning of fossil fuels are now evident and can be felt also in wealthy countries like Japan,” said Dr Friederike Otto, at Imperial College London and the lead of the World Weather Attribution group. “Unless the world drastically reduces its use of oil, gas and coal, the impacts of human-caused climate change will continue to worsen.”

The UN reported on Wednesday that critical global indicators of the climate crisis had broken new records in 2021, from rising oceans to the levels of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere. “[This] is a dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption. Fossil fuels are a dead end – environmentally and economically,” said António Guterres, the UN secretary general.

Last week, the Guardian revealed that 195 oil and gas “carbon bombs” are planned by the fossil fuel industry, which would drive global heating beyond the 1.5C limit agreed by the world’s nations.


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