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Rising disasters and melting glaciers: Over 80 disasters claim 5,000 lives in Aisa

disasters in Asia; A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a stark warning about the growing impact

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
Rising disasters and melting glaciers: Over 80 disasters claim 5,000 lives in Aisa
  • Long-term warming trend accelerates, Asia is world’s most disaster-prone region
  • More than 80 disasters killed more than 5 000 people and affected 50 million
  • Drought and floods most common hazards, Melting glaciers threaten future food and water security

A new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a stark warning about the growing impact of extreme weather events and climate change in Asia. The continent, which has the largest land mass extending into the Arctic, is experiencing rapid warming, nearly twice the global average.

Asia: 2022 Disasters and Impacts

Asia, the continent with the largest land mass extending to the Arctic, is warming faster than the global average. The warming trend in Asia in 1991–2022 was almost double the warming trend in the 1961–1990 period, according to the WMO State of the Climate in Asia 2022 report.

In Asia in 2022, there were 81 weather, climate, and water-related disasters, of which flood and storm events accounted for over 83%. The report states that more than 5,000 people lost their lives, and over 50 million people were directly affected. Additionally, the economic damages amounted to more than US$ 36 billion. Moreover, severe dust storms were experienced in a large part of arid Asia. Civil lives in the region were affected by several severe dust storm events in western Asia.

Overview of 2022 disasters in the Asia region. Source: Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

The report highlights the alarming trend of glacier mass loss in the High Mountain region of Asia. Exceptionally hot and dry conditions in 2022 exacerbated this phenomenon, with significant implications for future food and water security and ecosystem sustainability.

Despite these dire warnings, the report emphasizes the urgent need for transformative adaptation measures, such as impact-based forecasting and early warnings, to bolster the resilience of the food system in Asia. Agriculture, being central to all climate change adaptation planning, requires effective weather and climate monitoring and forecasting.

Difference between the highest daily precipitation totals in 2022 and the 1991–2020 long-term mean. Blue indicates the regions with more extreme daily precipitation than the long-term mean. Brown indicates the regions with less extreme daily precipitation than the long-term mean. Source: GPCC, Deutscher Wetterdienst, Germany

Asia's Climate: Warming, Droughts, Floods

The mean temperature over Asia in 2022 ranked as the second or third warmest on record, with a deviation of about 0.72 °C above the 1991–2020 average. Notably, the 1991–2020 average itself was approximately 1.68 °C higher than the WMO 1961–1990 reference period for climate change.

The region experienced widespread drought conditions, leading to reduced water availability. In China alone, the economic losses attributed to the drought in 2022 were estimated to surpass US$ 7.6 billion.

Pakistan faced severe flooding in 2022, where it received 60% of its normal total monsoon rainfall within just three weeks of the monsoon season's start. The floods affected over 33 million people, nearly 14% of Pakistan's 2022 population, as reported by the National Disaster Management Authority.

High Mountain Asia glaciers experiencing significant mass loss for 40 years, worsened by warm and dry conditions in 2022. Urumqi Glacier No. 1 saw the second-highest negative mass balance since 1959.

Cumulative mass balance (in metres water equivalent (m w.e.)) of four reference glaciers in the High Mountain Asia region and the average mass balance for the global reference glaciers

The region's surface ocean has shown an overall warming trend since 1982. In specific areas like the north-western Arabian Sea, the Philippine Sea, and the seas east of Japan, warming rates have exceeded 0.5 °C per decade, approximately three times faster than the global average surface ocean warming rate.

In September, Typhoon Nanmadol brought record-breaking winds and heavy rainfall to several stations in Japan, resulting in five reported deaths and affecting over 1,300 people. The estimated economic damages from the typhoon exceeded US$ 2 billion.

Climate change demands urgent action

Prof. Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General, warns that climate change is unevenly affecting the continent, creating a complex series of challenges.. The report calls for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the potentially catastrophic consequences of collapsing ocean currents.

Trends in mean surface air temperature for the six WMO regions and the global mean (℃) over four sub-periods using the six data sets. The bars indicate the trend in the mean of the data sets. The black lines indicate the range between the largest and the smallest trends in the individual data sets.

The release of the report coincides with a meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction. The United Nations Secretary-General's "Executive Action Plan on Early Warnings for All", co-led by WMO and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), is of vital importance in Asia, which is the region of the world most affected by disasters.

As extreme events continue to intensify, effective early warning services for agriculture and food security are paramount. The report urges policymakers and governments in the region to prioritize measures that strengthen climate resilience and reduce socioeconomic disruptions caused by climate change.

The findings serve as a wake-up call for the global community to collectively address climate change and its far-reaching consequences. Concerted efforts and international cooperation are essential to combat the impacts of extreme weather events and create a sustainable future for Asia and the world.

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