The familiar innards of a warming world were present: scorching temperatures, hotter air holding more moisture, wilder weather, melting glaciers, people living in danger, and poverty. They combined in Pakistan, causing unrelenting rain and deadly flooding.
The flooding has all the hallmarks of a disaster exacerbated by climate change, but several scientists tell The Associated Press that it is too early to blame global warming. It happened in a country that does little to contribute to global warming but keeps getting hit like the relentless rain.
“This year has seen the most rainfall in Pakistan in at least three decades.” “The rain has been more than 780% above average so far this year,” said Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
“It’s been a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions,” said Climate Minister Sherry Rehman.
What is causing Pakistan’s floods?
A scorching summer, with temperatures consistently above 45 degrees Celsius throughout May, contributed to the most massive downpours. High temperatures mean that hotter air can hold a lot more water, about 7% more moisture per degree Celsius. Temperatures in some Pakistani cities, such as Jacobabad and Dadu, exceeded 50 degrees Celsius.
All of this extra moisture then falls in torrents. This year’s rainfall has been 780 percent above average in the country. The average rainfall in Balochistan and Sindh has increased 400%, resulting in severe flooding. At least 20 dams in the country have been breached.
Pakistan’s rains are being “juiced by climate change,” according to Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist based in the United States, as quoted by the Associated Press. In Pakistan, daily rainfall is three times higher than the national average over the last three decades. The monsoon season has also never been this long. In September, the country could see another downpour.
Pakistan’s other source of misery
Apart from swollen rivers causing floods, Pakistan is also at risk from another source of flooding caused by melting glaciers. Pakistan has the most glaciers in the world outside of the polar regions.
In such hot weather, a phenomenon known as glacial outburst floods causes more water to flow from the Himalayas to Pakistan. This has resulted in a double whammy of flooding in Pakistan, which is “regarded as the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change,” according to a climate scientist based in Lahore.
A similar flood disaster struck Pakistan in 2010, killing nearly 2,000 people.