Pedestrians shield themselves from the sunlight under an umbrella during hot weather in Bangkok, Thailand, 23 April 2023. EFE/EPA/RUNGROJ YONGRIT/FILE

Keys to the unprecedented heat wave hitting Southeast Asia

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 10 (EFE).- Southeast Asia has experienced an unprecedented heat wave in recent weeks surpassing record temperatures in a region highly vulnerable to the climate crisis, as the El Nino phenomenon threatens more heat and drought in coming months.

Several countries in the region have broken record temperature highs several times: Vietnam broke its record two days in a row last weekend and set the new high at 44.2C, almost 1C higher than the 43.3C reached in 2019.

Neighboring Laos also reached its maximum in the city of Luang Prabang with 43.5C, 1.5C degrees above the previous record of 2019, while Thailand lived Sunday with the highest average temperature in its history.

“Hottest day in history for Laos again,” climate historian Maximilano Herrera, who compiles extreme temperatures on the planet, wrote Sunday on Twitter.

A tourist uses a handheld fan to cool down during a visit to Wat Arun, or Temple of Dawn, in Bangkok, Thailand, 24 April 2023. EFE-EPA/NARONG SANGNAK
A tourist uses a handheld fan to cool down during a visit to Wat Arun, or Temple of Dawn, in Bangkok, Thailand, 24 April 2023. EFE-EPA/NARONG SANGNAK

Though heatwaves are common in this region, the anomaly this year has been the duration of the extreme temperatures, which have lasted up to two months in some parts of Southeast Asia, according to Herrera. He added that the persistent heat in Thailand and Laos in the last seven weeks is “absolutely incredible.”

“Absolutely incredible what Thailand and Laos have been living for 7 weeks: hundreds of records smashed on a daily basis,” Herrera wrote.

April is usually the hottest month in much of Southeast Asia, just before the start of the rainy season, but it rarely exceeds 40C due to ambient humidity, which makes the air more resistant to warming and cooling.

High temperatures are associated with a higher incidence of cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory conditions, so the actual incidence will not be known until a few months have passed, when it can be seen whether there has been an unusual increase in the number of deaths.

The persistence of extreme heat threatens to damage the health of the population in an area of the world where huge pockets of poverty still exist, with people living in cramped, poorly ventilated rooms and where they can pay for air conditioning and the electricity bills it generates.

This heatwave is in line with what has been warned by the world scientific community about the climate crisis that threatens the planet and has Southeast Asia as one of its most vulnerable places due to high temperatures, risks of drought and increasing sea levels.

Adding to the climate crisis this year is the El Nino weather phenomenon, which involves warming of the surface of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and causes increases in global temperatures.

The UN has warned that the probability of El Nino is increasing from the second half of the year, which could aggravate the situation and cause temperatures to rise next year. EFE