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Asia most impacted by extreme weather and climate in 2023: WMO

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Asia was the most disaster-hit region in the world last year as extreme weather and climate threats intensified amid global warming, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the UN’s weather agency.

“Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms,” said WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo said in a report released this week.  

More than 9 million people on the continent were affected by the floods and storms, leading to over 2,000 casualties. Meanwhile, a trend of increased heat waves in the region continued. 

“Climate change has exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies and, most importantly, human lives,” Saulo added. 

The report warned that key climate change indicators, such as surface temperature, glacier melting, and sea level rise, signaled worsening conditions and the need for greater disaster risk prevention in Asia.

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While WMO found that much of Asia suffered from a substantial lack of precipitation in 2023, there were also many extreme weather events associated with heavy rainfall and flooding. 

According to a recent report, severe floods in China and droughts in India caused most of Asia-Pacific’s $65 billion of economic damages last year.

Heavy floods struck northern China in July — which witnessed some of the worst storms in years, while the capital of Beijing saw the heaviest rainfall in 140 years. Meanwhile, the southwest of China suffered from sustained drought, with below-normal precipitation levels nearly every month of 2023. 

India also suffered from floods and drought, with the latter reaching unprecedented levels in August, the world’s hottest month ever recorded. The country also saw heatwaves in April and June that caused over 100 deaths by heatstroke. 

The WMO report noted that a lack of rainfall could also have detrimental effects on drinking water sources, agriculture, industry, and hydropower. 

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Saulo said the report’s findings were “sobering.”

“We are at a critical juncture, where the impact of climate change intersects with societal inequalities,” she said in the report. 

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