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Extreme Weather Takes Toll: India Among Hardest Hit in 2023, Says WMO

ANM Desk

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) sounded the alarm on Tuesday, reaffirming Asia’s status as the most disaster-hit region globally in 2023. The report underscored the region’s vulnerability to a barrage of weather, climate, and water-related hazards. Among these, floods and storms exacted the highest toll in terms of casualties and economic losses. The WMO’s latest assessment, titled *The State of the Climate in Asia 2023*, highlighted the devastating impact of extreme heat and severe floods, with India bearing a significant brunt of the onslaught.


India’s Battle with Extreme Heatwaves

India, in particular, grappled with severe heatwaves, which claimed approximately 110 lives due to heatstroke during April and June. The scorching temperatures in April and May extended across South-East Asia, reaching as far west as Bangladesh and Eastern India, and as north as southern China, setting new records for high temperatures. This marked a continuation of the heatwave phenomenon observed in 2022, when India experienced a severe spring heatwave. The repercussions were dire, with significant impacts on agriculture, including reduced wheat crop yields, prompting governmental reassessments of global wheat supply strategies.


Rising Temperatures and Changing Patterns

The report highlighted disturbing trends in temperature rise. The annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in 2023 ranked as the second highest on record. This increase, amounting to 0.91°C above the 1991–2020 average and 1.87°C above the 1961–1990 average, manifested prominently across various regions. These regions ranged from western Siberia to central Asia and from eastern China to Japan. Notably, Japan and Kazakhstan experienced record warm years, indicative of the widespread nature of temperature anomalies.


Floods: A Persistent Threat

Floods emerged as a recurring menace, claiming numerous lives and causing extensive damage across India, Yemen, and Pakistan. In 2023, over 80% of reported hydrometeorological hazards in Asia were flood and storm events. Among these, floods accounted for the highest number of fatalities. The North Indian Ocean basin witnessed devastation when Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Mocha made landfall along the Rakhine Coast in Myanmar. The event resulted in widespread destruction and 156 reported deaths.


Climate Change Amplifies Risks

Experts underscored the role of climate change in exacerbating the severity of natural hazards. They emphasized the link between human activities and the intensification of heatwaves. Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in Climate Science at Imperial College London, reiterated the connection between climate change and the escalating danger posed by heatwaves worldwide. With each heatwave becoming hotter and more perilous, the imperative for mitigative action becomes increasingly urgent.


Urgent Call for Adaptation and Support

Harjeet Singh, a Loss and Damage expert, underscored the urgent need to bolster disaster preparedness and implement effective adaptation strategies. As climate challenges escalate, particularly in vulnerable regions like India, Singh emphasized the critical role of financial and technological support from wealthier nations. Such support is crucial for bolstering adaptation efforts and safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of millions at risk due to the climate emergency.


A Call to Action

As Asia grapples with the escalating impacts of climate change, the WMO report serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for collective action. From extreme heatwaves to devastating floods, the region faces a myriad of challenges exacerbated by climate change. Concerted efforts are necessary to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis. These efforts include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing disaster preparedness, and implementing adaptation strategies. To achieve this, international cooperation and support are crucial. Only through collective action can Asia and the world address the looming threats posed by climate change. Building a more resilient future for generations to come depends on our ability to work together effectively.

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