Record-Setting Heat Wave Hits Vietnam and Southeast Asia

A severe heat wave with historically high temperatures hit Southeast Asia, posing significant risks to vulnerable populations and breaking previous records. This dangerous heat wave has led to temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C) in certain areas of Vietnam and Laos, marking the highest temperatures ever recorded in these countries. These new records add to a series of global trend that reflect the ongoing impact of a warming climate.

According to Maximiliano Herrera, a climate historian who monitors temperature records, the current heat wave is among the most severe the world has experienced, with many broken records. He described the situation bluntly, stating that “records are being pulverized.” The extreme heat is not limited to Vietnam and Laos, as other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Cambodia, Thailand, and some parts of China, are also experiencing widespread record-high temperatures.

Extreme thunderstorms have formed due to the high temperatures, resulting in flooding in already difficult locations. As the temperatures rise, they bring an increasing number of weather extremes, the worst of which is floods.

Temperatures in Laos have steadily risen since the beginning of the month, with a new record high of 110.3 degrees Fahrenheit (43.5 C) recorded in Luang Prabang over the weekend. Meanwhile, the capital city of Vientiane broke a record when it reached 108.5 degrees Fahrenheit (42.5 C). Temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C) were recorded at many  stations.

On Sunday, Luang Prabang matched its record-high temperature from the day before. Also, Saturday night in Thakhek was the hottest night in Cambodian history, with temperatures reaching a low of 89.2 degrees Fahrenheit (31.8 C).

About 18.3 percent of people in Laos live in poverty and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of high temperatures. The intersection of heat stress and preexisting vulnerabilities will likely lead to many illnesses as well as premature deaths in Southeast Asia. This is especially concerning as the most disadvantaged populations are expected to be disproportionately affected by the extreme heat.

Vietnam also experienced high temperatures, with Hoi Xuan reaching a nationwide record of 111.4 (44.1 C) degrees, surpassing the previous record of 110.1 (43.4 C) degrees set in 2019.

Herrera tweeted that Vietnam had broken many records for high temperatures from north to south. On Sunday, the temperature in Tuong Duong reached 111.6 degrees F (44.2 C), even hotter than the previous day. Thailand also experienced record-breaking temperatures, with a temperature station in downtown Bangkok recording 104.9 degrees F ( 40.5 C) on Saturday, the highest ever recorded in that location. Sunday saw a high of 105.8 F (41 C) degrees, making it the hottest day ever recorded in Thailand when averaged across the country. In addition, last month marked the first time that Thailand had ever recorded a temperature of 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) anywhere in the country.

Kratie and Ponhea Kraek set a new national record for May with readings of 106.9 degrees F ( 41.6 C) in Cambodia. China also experienced record-breaking heat on Saturday also, with Hainan province recording its highest temperature. Changjiang reached a scorching temperature of 106.7 degrees F (41.5 C) .

Bloomberg News has reported that schools in the Philippines have been closed due to extreme temperatures. Additionally, the region is experiencing toxic smog, with ground-level ozone levels reaching dangerous levels. This has made it unsafe for people to go outside.

The heatwave cause is a high-pressure area in Southeast Asia, which is a normal occurrence during this time of year. However, it has broken temperature records due to the ongoing global warming trend. High humidity levels make it unusual for temperatures to exceed 100 degrees F (37.8 C) in Southeast Asia. The high humidity levels in the region make the air more resistant to warming and cooling. The fact that numerous temperature records have been broken is evidence of the exceptional nature of this air mass. An increase in temperatures in May, before the arrival of the monsoon season and the increased moisture it brings during the summer months, is normal, but the records are usual.

The effects of human activity have resulted in a strong heatwave. These heat waves are becoming increasingly severe, frequent, and prolonged. The world has experienced the warmest temperatures ever recorded in the last eight years.

Peer-reviewed research shows that every year, tens of thousands of Southeast Asians lose their lives because of the region’s blazing temperatures. Therefore, it is likely that an even larger number of deaths may occur during this current heat wave.