From floods in Brazil and Houston to brutal heat in Asia: extreme weather seems almost everywhere

In sweltering Brazil, the worst floods ever killed dozens of people and paralyzed a city of about four million inhabitants. Voters and politicians at the world’s biggest elections in India are fainting from heat that can reach 115 degrees (46.3 degrees Celsius).

A brutal Asian heat wave has closed schools in the Philippines, killed people in Thailand and set records there, as well as in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives and Myanmar. Record temperatures – especially at night when it won’t cool down – have hit many parts of Africa. Floods devastated Houston, and the United States as a whole just suffered from them second highest number of tornadoes for the month of April.

In a world increasingly accustomed to wild weather swings, the past few days and weeks have seemingly taken these environmental extremes to a new level. Some climate scientists say they struggle to remember a time when much of the world had weather in high gear at the same time.

“Given that we have seen an unprecedented jump in global warmth over the past eleven months, it is not surprising that climate extremes are worsening so early in the year,” said University of Michigan Environment Dean Jonathan Overpeck. “If this record pace of warming continues, 2024 will likely be a record year of climate disaster and human suffering.”

When the world is warmer, more extreme weather and climate events are likely to occur, including record heat and rainfall, scientists say. And climate change is also changing weather patterns, causing rainy and hot systems to linger over areas and the jet stream to meander, said Alvaro Silva, a climate scientist at the World Meteorological Organization.

The stronger effects of human-induced climate change are being compounded by a now weakening El Nino – a natural warming of parts of the central Pacific Ocean that is altering weather worldwide – which followed a three-year La Nina, its cool counterpart, Silva said.

Scientists also pointed it out 13 consecutive months of record hot oceans as a potential factor.

While several factors are at play in these extremes, “climate change is the most important,” Silva said.

The problem is that the world has adapted and built cities designed for 20th century temperatures and rainfall, but climate change is bringing more heat and rainfall, says Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University.

“We are now leaving the climate of the 20th century and we simply cannot handle these events,” Dessler said. “So they’re becoming a little more extreme, but they’re beyond our ability to deal with them.”

Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoechief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, said more extremes are overlapping in more places.

“Climate change is challenging weather forecasts in all parts of the world,” Hayhoe said. “What this means is that not only is the frequency and severity of many weather extremes increasing, but the risk of compound events is also increasing.”

In the first five days of May alone, 70 countries or areas broke heat records, says climatologist Maximiliano Herrera, who keeps temperature records around the world.

Nandyala and Kadapa in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh reached a record high of 115 degrees (46.3 degrees Celsius), Herrera said.

Nitin Gadkari, a federal minister, fainted while campaigning in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

“Heat waves in India are by far the deadliest form of extreme weather events. At the same time, these are the types of extremes that are increasing most strongly in a warming world,” climate scientist Friederike Otto said in a statement earlier this week.

This week in Southeast Asia was “the hottest May night ever,” Herrera wrote on X (formerly Twitter). Parts of Thailand did not drop below 87.6 degrees (30.9 degrees Celsius).

In late April, parts of northern Thailand hit 111 degrees (44 degrees Celsius), while Chauk township in Myanmar’s hottest region reached a record high of 118.8 degrees (48.2 degrees Celsius).

Many African countries are also experiencing scorching heat. Herrera said it was 117.5 degrees (47.5 degrees Celsius) in Kayes, Mali. The capital of Niger had the hottest May night and the capital of Burkina Faso had the hottest night of all months. In Chad, in north-central Africa, temperatures were expected to hover above 114 degrees (45.6 degrees Celsius) all week.

The deadly heat wave felt in West Africa last month was linked to human-induced climate change, according to scientists from the World Weather Attribution group.

In Mexico’s Ciudad Altamirano, temperatures approached 115 degrees (46 degrees Celsius) with record heat across Latin America, Herrera said. Bolivia had the hottest May night on record and Brazil had the hottest day in May.

Brazil’s record-breaking heat that suppressed major cities like Sao Paulo also prevented a rainstorm from spreading across the south of the country, making it deadly, said Francisco Aquino, a climatologist at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul .

There was also a huge influx of moisture from the so-called flying rivers or air currents that transport water vapor in the Amazon, Aquino explained. “These caused clouds to produce extreme rainfall,” he said.

The southern state of Rio Grande do Sul is reeling from its worst-ever flood, with at least 90 dead, nearly 204,000 displaced and 388 municipalities affected, according to local authorities.

In Porto Alegre, a metropolitan area with more than 4.4 million inhabitants, the waters took over the center, the international airport and several neighborhoods. According to authorities, it will take days for the water level to recede.

Houston is still trying to dry out after days of heavy rain that forced more than 600 people to be rescued from flooding across Texas, including 233 people in Houston. Just northeast of Houston, about 23 inches (58 centimeters) fell.

Meanwhile, April brought the heaviest rain on record to the United Arab Emirates, flooding parts of the desert kingdom’s major highways and Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest hub for international travel.


Borenstein and Naishadham reported from Washington, Arasu from Bengaluru, India, and Maisonnave from Brasilia, Brazil.


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