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Attribution of 2022 early-spring heatwave in India and Pakistan to climate change: lessons in assessing vulnerability and preparedness in reducing impacts

In March 2022, large parts over the north Indian plains including the breadbasket region, and southern Pakistan began experiencing prolonged heat, which continued into May. The event was exacerbated due to prevailing dry conditions in the region, resulting in devastating consequences for public health and agriculture. Using event attribution methods, we analyse the role of human-induced climate change in altering the chances of such an event. To capture the extent of the impacts, we choose March-April average of daily maximum temperature over the most affected region in India and Pakistan as the variable. In observations, the 2022 event has a return period of ~1-in-100 years. For each of the climate models, we then calculate the change in probability and intensity of a 1-in-100 year event between the actual and counterfactual worlds for quantifying the role of climate change. We estimate that human-caused climate change made this heatwave about 1°C hotter and 30 times more likely in the current, 2022 climate, as compared to the 1.2 °C cooler, pre-industrial climate. Under a future global warming of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, heatwaves like this are expected to become even more common (2–20 times more likely) and hotter (by 0-1.5°C) compared to now. Stronger and frequent heat waves in the future will impact vulnerable groups as conditions in some regions exceed limits for human survivability. Therefore, mitigation is essential for avoiding loss of lives and livelihood. Heat Action Plans (HAPs) have proved effective to help reduce heat-related mortality in both countries.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
IOP Publishing
© 2023 The Author(s). This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 licence.