Pakistan - Climate
Pakistan lies in the temperate zone. The climate is generally arid, characterized by hot summers and cool or cold winters, and wide variations between extremes of temperature at given locations. There is little rainfall. These generalizations should not, however, obscure the distinct differences existing among particular locations. For example, the coastal area along the Arabian Sea is usually warm, whereas the frozen snow-covered ridges of the Karakoram Range and of other mountains of the far north are so cold year round that they are only accessible by world-class climbers for a few weeks in May and June of each year.
Pakistan has are four seasons: a cool, dry winter from December through February; a hot, dry spring from March through May; the summer rainy season, or southwest monsoon period, from June through September; and the retreating monsoon period of October and November. The onset and duration of these seasons vary somewhat according to location.
The climate in the capital city of Islamabad varies from an average daily low of 2° C in January to an average daily high of 40° C in June. Half of the annual rainfall occurs in July and August, averaging about 255 millimeters in each of those two months. The remainder of the year has significantly less rain, amounting to about fifty millimeters per month. Hailstorms are common in the spring.
Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, which is also the country's industrial center, is more humid than Islamabad but gets less rain. Only July and August average more than twenty-five millimeters of rain in the Karachi area; the remaining months are exceedingly dry. The temperature is also more uniform in Karachi than in Islamabad, ranging from an average daily low of 13° C during winter evenings to an average daily high of 34° C on summer days. Although the summer temperatures do not get as high as those in Punjab, the high humidity causes the residents a great deal of discomfort.
Most areas in Punjab experience fairly cool winters, often accompanied by rain. Woolen shawls are worn by women and men for warmth because few homes are heated. By mid-February the temperature begins to rise; springtime weather continues until mid-April, when the summer heat sets in. The onset of the southwest monsoon is anticipated to reach Punjab by May, but since the early 1970s the weather pattern has been irregular. The spring monsoon has either skipped over the area or has caused it to rain so hard that floods have resulted. June and July are oppressively hot. Although official estimates rarely place the temperature above 46° C, newspaper sources claim that it reaches 51° C and regularly carry reports about people who have succumbed to the heat. Heat records were broken in Multan in June 1993, when the mercury was reported to have risen to 54° C. In August the oppressive heat is punctuated by the rainy season, referred to as barsat, which brings relief in its wake. The hardest part of the summer is then over, but cooler weather does not come until late October.
Pakistan contributes very little to the overall Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, but remains severely impacted by the negative effects of climate change. Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding will affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows over time as glaciers recede. Freshwater availability is also projected to decrease which will lead to biodiversity loss and reduce availability of freshwater for the population. Coastal areas bordering the Arabian Sea in the south of Pakistan will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and in some cases, the rivers.
Being a predominantly agriculture economy, climate change is estimated to decrease crop yields in Pakistan which in turn will affect livelihoods and food production. Combining the decreased yields with the current rapid population growth and urbanization in the country, the risk of hunger and food security will remain high. Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diseases primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise. Increases in coastal water temperatures would exacerbate the abundance of cholera.
The impact of climate change will also aggravate the existing social inequalities of resource use and intensify social factors leading to instability, conflicts, displacement of people and changes in migration patterns.
Moreover, these adverse impacts of climate change are not in the distant future but are imminent. Indeed, these are already occurring as Pakistan has started suffering with ever-increasing frequency and ferocity of climate-induced catastrophes. Studies and assessments undertaken by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) show that extreme climate events between 1994 and 2013 have resulted in an average annual economic loss of almost US dollars 4 billion. The last five floods (2010-2014) have resulted in monetary losses of over US$ 18 billion with 38.12 million people affected, 3.45 million houses damaged and 10.63 million acres of crops destroyed. Likewise, over 1200 people lost their lives due to the unprecedented heat wave in Karachi in 2015.
According to climate models suggested by the Climate Change Vulnerability Index 2016 (CCVI), monsoons are increasingly becoming erratic both in their spatial and temporal nature. Similarly, drought events are expected to increase in winter, affecting the yield of cash harvests. CCVI indicates that an increase in precipitation and rainfall pattern will happen during the summer season, resulting in riverine and flash floods over different areas of Pakistan. On the other hand, lack of capacity for flood management and wetlands results in discharge of extra water into the sea in less than a month’s time, leaving the country in water-stressed situation for the large part of the year, with serious implications for food and energy security. Other hydrometeorological hazards such as glacial melt, glacial lake outburst flooding (GLOF), avalanches, storms, cyclones, desertification and heat waves are becoming more common, putting lives, property and the allied socio-economic features of country at great risk.
Pakistan’s vulnerability to adverse impacts of climate change is well established and widely recognized. Despite Pakistan’s diminutive contribution to global GHG emissions, it is among the top ten most climate-affected countries of the world, as indicated by the Global Climate Risk Index developed by Germanwatch.
Downpours in August 2020 shattered 89-year-old records for the city. “It has never rained so much in the month of August, according to our data,” the country’s chief meteorological officer, Sardar Sarfaraz, told Reuters, adding that the data went back to 1931, 16 years before Pakistan gained independence from Britain.
Intermittent rains on 22 August 2020 once again inundated streets and roads of Karachi and disrupted traffic flow, making the lives of people difficult. The weather warning pointed out that heavy downpour might generate urban flooding in Karachi and Hyderabad, therefore all the concerned authorities were advised to remain alert and take precautionary measures during the period. Water entered into homes as rain nullahs burst their banks. Torrential rains lashed Karachi 26 August 2020 leaving the city’s one of the poshest areas underwater. Pakistan Army personnel reached the affected areas to help the civil administration, which acted like a mere spectator, as the new monsoon spell disrupted routine life in the metropolis. Rain was also reported from Mirwah Gorchani, Digri, Tando Jam Muhammad, Jhuddo, Naokot, Kot Ghulam Muhammad, Sindhri, Hingorno, Khaan, Jhilori and other areas.
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