Asia warming faster than global average

Launching the State of the Climate in Asia, 2022, on July 27, 2023, Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General (SG), World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that the temperatures in the Asian region were warmer than those of the previous year; 2022 was the second or third warmest year on record. He also underlined that most glaciers in the High Mountain Asia region suffered from intense mass loss as a result of exceptionally warm and dry conditions in 2022. 

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.

There were 81 weather, climate and water-related disasters in Asia in 2022, of which over 83% were flood and storm events. More than 5 000 people lost their lives, more than 50 million people were directly affected and there were more than US$ 36 billion in economic damages. A large part of arid Asia experienced severe dust storms.

“In 2022, many areas in Asia experienced drier-than-normal conditions and drought. China, in particular, suffered prolonged drought conditions, which affected water availability and the power supply,” he said, adding that the estimated economic losses from the drought affecting many regions in China were over US$ 7.6 billion. “In view of the trends with respect to climate indicators and extreme events described in this report, and the expected increase in the frequency and severity of extreme events over much of Asia, it is clear that agriculture will continue to be impacted by climate change and climate extremes; this is especially apparent in countries where the agricultural sector is important to the economy,” the SG mentioned. As of February 2023, the most frequently chosen priority area for climate adaptation by the parties in the Asia region was agriculture, followed by water and health.

The present report clearly indicates that there are still significant gaps to be addressed to strengthen early warning these systems in order to reduce the adverse impacts of hydrometeorological hazards in the region. To ensure the mainstreaming of this initiative at the regional level, ministers and heads of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services from 24 countries and key regional partners issued a high-level declaration at the WMO Regional Conference in Asia. This declaration includes strong recommendations to advance the four key MHEWS pillars: risk knowledge and management; observations and forecasting; dissemination and communication; and preparedness and response.

Concerning Asia, the mean temperature over Asia for 2022 was the second or third warmest on record and was 0.72 °C [0.63 °C–0.77 °C] above the 1991–2020 average. The 1991–2020 average was itself 1.68 °C [1.60 °C–1.74 °C] above the WMO 1961–1990 reference period for climate change. Drought affected many parts of the region, reducing water availability.

The economic losses in 2022 as a result of the drought in China, for example, were estimated to exceed US$ 7.6 billion. Glaciers in the High Mountain Asia region have lost significant mass over the past 40 years, and this loss is accelerating. In 2022, exceptionally warm and dry conditions exacerbated the mass loss for most glaciers. Urumqi Glacier No. 1 in the eastern Tien Shan recorded the second highest negative mass balance of -1.25 metre water equivalent (m w.e.) since measurements began in 1959.

The oceanic region within WMO Regional Association II (Asia) shows an overall surface ocean warming trend since the time series began in 1982. In the north-western Arabian Sea, the Philippine Sea and the seas east of Japan, the warming rates exceed 0.5 °C per decade, which is about three times faster than the global average surface ocean warming rate. Pakistan experienced severe flooding that was associated with significant loss of life and economic damage. Pakistan received 60% of its normal total monsoon rainfall within just three weeks of the start of the monsoon season in 2022.

More than 33 million people were affected. Record-breaking winds and heavy rainfall associated with Typhoon Nanmadol were observed in several stations in Japan in September. Nanmadol was associated with five deaths, affected over 1 300 people, and caused estimated economic damages in excess of US$ 2 billion. Economic losses in 2022 due to disasters relating to floods exceeded the average for the 2002–2021 period.

Staff Reporter from Thmphu