April temperatures in mainland Southeast Asia reach record-breaking highs following El Nino years, reports a study published in Nature Communications this week. The research also suggests that global warming has increased the frequency of such extremes.
April is the warmest month of the year in mainland Southeast Asia and average April temperatures in this region are showing an increasing trend, warming by around 1 degree C since the mid-20th century. In April 2016, temperatures broke all previous records and exacerbated energy consumption, disrupted crop production and caused severe human discomfort. Kaustubh Thirumalai and colleagues use observations and model simulations to find that extreme April temperatures in mainland Southeast Asia always occur after El Nino years. They show that a strong El Nino contributed to nearly 50% of the 2016 temperature anomaly; however, 30% of this temperature increase was due to global warming. These results indicate that global warming has exacerbated the likelihood of high temperatures in April in this region.
Record-breaking April temperatures in mainland Southeast Asia can be expected to occur more frequently with continued global warming, the authors suggest. Since these extreme-heat Aprils almost always occur after El Nino events, they could potentially be predicted a few months in advance to inform adaptation efforts in this vulnerable region.