Pakistan May Have Just Set a World Heat Record

The misery index is near the top of the charts in South Asia
The misery index is near the top of the charts in South Asia
Image: Earth wind map

High temperatures are forecast to reach the mid-80s this week in New York, and I’m dreading it. But I have a plan to stay cool: just thinking of how much hotter it is in Pakistan, which is in the middle of a blistering heat wave.


Temperatures reported to have cracked 50.2 degrees Celsius (122.3 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday in Nawabshah, located about 127 miles northeast of Karachi. If confirmed, that could make the measurement not just the hottest ever recorded for April in Pakistan, but the hottest ever reliably recorded for April anywhere on Earth.

“There was a 51.0°C reading reported from Santa Rosa, Mexico in April 2011 but this figure is considered of dubious reliability, so yes, the 50.2° reading is likely the hottest April temperature yet reliably observed on Earth in modern records,” Chris Burt, a weather historian, told Earther in an email.

There was also a major heat wave last April in Pakistan that saw temperatures get nearly as extreme. Nearby Larkana topped out at 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), which is the old accepted April record for Pakistan. (There’s another single report of 51 degrees Celsius, but it’s hard to say how accurate that is.)

Either way, it’s hot AF right in Nawabshah right now. According to Dawn, a regional news outlet, the heat caused people to pass out and forced “business activities came to a halt” in the district of 1.1 million. The same city hit 45.5 degrees Celsius (113.9 degrees Fahrenheit) in March, setting an all-time March record for Pakistan according to Capital Weather Gang.

But Nawabshah is hardly the only sweltering locale. A vast area from Eastern Europe to South Asia is under a massive heat dome that’s been building since last week. Heat domes occur when an area of high pressure camps over a region, causing dry air to sink. As it sinks, that air gets compressed and releases heat, leading to sizzling temperatures. Burt also noted that Poltavka, Russia, located on the Kazakhstan border, recorded the warmest April temperature for the Asian portion of Russia when it topped out at 34.8 degrees Celsius (94.6 degrees Celsius) on April 29.


The heat dome may also have helped trigger wild weather in the Middle East last week, locking in low pressure that unleashed towering haboobs, huge hail, and deadly flash flooding in the region.

While the Middle East’s weather has since dissipated, the heat dome is expected to persist for much of the week. Bob Henson, a meteorologist and writer at Weather Underground, told Earther that means more record highs are likely, albeit there probably won’t be any more all-time world record contenders. Those don’t happen every day.


On Tuesday, temperatures were forecast to be well over 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) across large portions of Pakistan. Overnight lows will likely stay above 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) for a number of low-lying areas in Pakistan, adding to the misery and upping the risk of heat-related health impacts.


The recent eye-popping temperatures in Pakistan fall in line with a growing body of research showing how climate change is making heat waves more common and intense nearly everywhere. This is particularly dire news for what’s already one of the hottest parts of the world. Research published last year, for instance, shows that climate change is adding to the death toll in India by making heat waves worse and “will lead to substantial increases in heat-related mortality” in the coming century.



You didn’t explicitly mention it but it should be pointed out:

Heat waves are the deadliest natural disasters we routinely ever encounter.

It’s just that it’s a slow motion killer, not like a tornado or even something like a hurricane. If you’re one of those people thinking something like, “Oh, those brown people. They don’t have a/c normally. They’re adapted, they can take it.”

No. No, they can’t. They’re already living at the upper limits of what humans can adapt to naturally. Living in an extreme environment doesn’t mean you’re naturally just able to take shit like that in stride. More usually it means you’re already running every coping mechanism at 10/10ths capacity. There is no spare resilience that comes from being poor and living in a hot place with intermittent electricity.