It’s only May, and this year is setting new standards in terrifying extreme temperatures. The latest example comes from Nawabshah, Pakistan, where it was 50.2ºC (122.4ºF) on April 30. Meteorologists think this is the hottest shaded temperature ever recorded for a reliable weather station in April, anywhere on Earth.
The World Meteorological Organization does not provide an official account of monthly temperature records for the planet, so the claim this is the hottest April temperature ever can’t be absolutely confirmed. Moreover, in April 2001 the city of Santa Rosa, Mexico, reported an even higher 51.0ºC (123.8ºF), but the Weather Underground’s Dr Christopher Burt described this to the Washington Post as “of dubious reliability”. No other challenger has been found.
Records such as this don’t happen in isolation. Most of Pakistan and much of India have been experiencing weather that would be extreme for July, so is off the charts for spring-time. The effect is being driven by an enormous mass of hot water in the north-eastern Indian Ocean.
Unsurprisingly, the heat has driven up demand for electricity from those lucky enough to have air conditioning or at least fans. Inevitably, this has led to power outages, making the situation far worse. There are official reports of people fainting, but social media is more distressing still.
Nawabshah also set a monthly national heat record in March, and nearby Larkana set the previous April record for Asia last year.
In 2015, a heatwave caused an estimated 1,200 deaths in Karachi alone, and it is hard to imagine how high the death toll will go if the ocean heat dome is still present when summer comes.
Although South Asia is suffering the most, other parts of the world have also had an astonishingly hot month. Sydney had it’s hottest April Day since records began, Eastern Europe experienced temperatures far above normal, and records for Asian Russia were also broken.
Not all the exceptional temperatures this year have been on the high side. Europeans suffered through the “Beast From the East” in February when temperatures were 7ºC (13ºF) below normal for that time. Naturally, climate change deniers jumped on this as a refutation of global warming, conveniently ignoring the simultaneous temperatures in the Arctic an astonishing 20ºC (3 ºF) above the seasonal average.
Both these events were probably stemmed from the loss of Arctic Sea Ice, which changes wind patterns so that warm and cold air flow to unseasonal places. Sea ice this year was the second lowest recorded for April.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of all is that this event occurred when the world is in a near-neutral phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Normally, temperature records are broken during strong El Niño or La Nina events.