Southeast Asia hit with record-breaking heat and heavy air pollution

US News

A worker handles a block of ice at a wet market during a heat wave in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday, April 27, 2023. 
Andre Malerba | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Several cities in Southeast Asia experienced sweltering temperatures over the weekend, with some areas hitting new-all time highs as global climate change intensifies both heat waves and air pollution in the region.

The temperature in Tuong Duong, a city in Vietnam, reached an all-time record 111.6 degrees Fahrenheit (44.2 degrees Celsius) on Sunday, according to the Vietnamese National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting. Luang Prabang, a city in Laos, saw an all-time record temperature of 110.3 degrees Fahrenheit (43.5 degrees Celsius) on Saturday, according to the Thai Meteorological Department. 

Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, also experienced an all-time record temperature of 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) over the weekend.

Singapore hit 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) on Saturday, matching it all-time record, which was recorded 40 years ago, the National Environment Agency said.

Southeast Asia is one of the regions most vulnerable climate change, which has fueled more frequent and severe heatwaves and worsened the region’s air pollution. The combination of extreme heat and high smog levels in the region has exacerbated the risk of heat-related illnesses as well as respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

The scorching temperatures this year can be linked to a combination of issues, including lower rainfall over the past winter and El Niño, a weather pattern that typically brings hotter and drier conditions to the region. 

The hottest months in Southeast Asia are typically from March to May during the dry season, when temperatures often hit above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The region’s dry season typically ends with the onset of the monsoon season, which brings cooler temperatures and rainfall.

However, a 2022 study from the journal Communications Earth & Environment warns that dangerous levels of heat are expected to occur between three and 10 times more often by the end of the century.

Tropical regions, including much of Asia, could face double the amount of days of “extremely dangerous heat” of 124 degrees Fahrenheit (51 degrees Celsius), according to the study. Asia faces hazards including flooding, drought and typhoons in addition to rising heat and humidity.

Globally, 2022 ranked as one of the hottest years on record as ocean heat increased and sea ice coverage in Antarctica melted to near-record lows, according to U.S. government data.

Residents rest in front of a fan in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. 
Andre Malerba | Bloomberg | Getty Images

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