Vietnam and Laos record hottest temperatures ever as heat wave grips Southeast Asia

Hong Kong

Temperature records tumbled across Southeast Asia over the weekend as the region swelters under a weekslong heat wave that has brought misery to millions.

All-time highs were recorded in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand’s capital, where the heat has been compounded by an intense smoggy season that has caused pollution levels to spike.

Scientists have long warned that heat waves are set to get worse as the impacts of the human-caused climate crisis accelerate.

In Vietnam, temperatures reached 44.2 degrees Celsius (around 111.6 Fahrenheit) on Saturday in the northern district of Tuong Duong – the highest temperature ever recorded in the country, according to weather historian Maximiliano Herrera.

In neighboring Laos, the city of Luang Prabang hit 43.5 degrees Celsius (110.3 Fahrenheit) on Saturday, breaking the national record of 42.7 degrees Celsius (108.9 Fahrenheit) that was only set last month, Herrera said.

The Laotian capital Vientiane also broke its all-time record this weekend with a temperature of 42.5 degrees Celsius (108.5 Fahrenheit).

Meanwhile in Thailand, Saturday saw the hottest ever temperature recorded in Bangkok – 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit).

The capital is among large parts of Thailand that have suffered under temperatures in the upper 30s to low 40s Celsius since late March. In mid-April, the northwest city of Tak became the first place in the country to top 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), according to Herrera, using data from the Thai Meteorological Department.

Last month, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed concern over “dangerously high temperatures in various parts of Thailand.”

April and May are typically the hottest months of the year for South and Southeast Asia as temperatures rise before annual monsoon rains bring some relief.

Temperatures across the region are expected to return closer to average in the coming days, but unprecedented heat events are becoming more common as the climate crisis intensifies.

A 2022 study determined that dangerous heat waves, at temperatures of 39.4 degrees Celsius (103 degrees Fahrenheit) and above, will occur between three and 10 times more often by the turn of the century.

In the tropics, which encompasses much of Asia, the study found that days of “extremely dangerous heat” – defined as 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit) – could double, putting the population of impacted countries at risk.

“By definition, we don’t know what could happen if large populations are exposed to unprecedented heat and humidity stress,” the study’s lead author Lucas Vargas Zeppetello from Harvard University previously told CNN, “but heat waves in the past few decades have already been extremely deadly and there is serious cause for concern in the future.”


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