Pakistan is devastated by floods, Europe by droughts, are they connected?

Written by
February 22, 2024
5 min read

The recent flooding in Pakistan is a devastating end to a summer of exceptional disasters in the northern hemisphere. The country has been ruined by the floods, with over 33 million people affected and a third of the country submerged in water (an area equivalent in size to the UK). According to the Disasters Emergency Committee at least 1,300 have been killed so far with many more expected as entire villages' food and clean water supply have been cut off.

1.What is the cause of this extreme flooding in Pakistan?

2.Is climate change to blame for flooding in Pakistan?

3. Are the weather extremes in Europe related to the floods in Pakistan?

4. Is Cloud Seeding in China a Possible Cause of Flooding in Pakistan?

  1. What is the cause of this extreme flooding in Pakistan

The simple answer is that the widespread flooding was a result of monsoon rains. Which at first glance, may not be surprising. Monsoon rains are known for the huge amount of rain that would fall in a short time period. However, Pakistan is located on the edge of the south Asian monsoon region so the desert country normally receives very little rain during the rainfall seasons unlike bordering countries such as India experience every year.

This year, Pakistan regions were devastated by unusually high monsoon rains. Over the course of the last two months Pakistan has experienced record levels of rainfall, 3 times the amount of rainfall usually expected. Once that rain has settled on the land there is nowhere for it to go, as counter to what many people would think, the sand of the desert country does not easily soak up the water.

  1. Is climate change to blame?

In short, yes, climate change is to blame for this heavy flooding. Global warming increases sea and air temperatures which leads to more evaporation and subsequently more rainfall and more extreme monsoon rains.

It’s scientifically proven that warmer air can store more moisture. For every degree warmer the atmosphere gets it can hold about 6-7% more moisture which results in more intense rainfall during the monsoon season.

Pakistan, much like the rest of Europe, also experienced harsh heatwaves in the early months of the summer, due to global warming.

The country contains more than 7,000 glaciers in its northern region, containing more glacial ice than any other country outside of the polar regions. Due to the extreme temperatures the glaciers melted rapidly and therefore had already filled many lakes and rivers and adding unusually high monsoon rains has led to extreme flooding. It’s estimated that 3000 lakes are at risk of bursting.

Europe has also suffered weather extremes this past summer, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France are among some of the countries who suffered surges in temperature. Record breaking temperatures of over 40 degrees celsius were recorded and spelled misery for millions. Wildfires spread across Portugal, Spain and Italy and droughts were declared in most countries across the continent.

3. Are the weather extremes in Europe related to the floods in Pakistan?

Although the heatwaves and drought in Europe did not directly impact the flooding across the asian country, they are all consequences of climate change and that is what makes them connected. Human caused climate change, due to our greenhouse gas emissions, has warmed the planet by 1.2 degrees and this causes extreme weather from drought to its polar opposite, flooding.

Scientists have been predicting worsening extreme weather events for decades and now the consequences of our actions are materialising in front of our eyes. We must act rapidly to decarbonise, if the earth continues to warm it is a death sentence for millions in countries like Pakistan. Less developed are not equipped to deal with the extremes that are mainly caused by people living privileged lifestyles.

4. Is Cloud Seeding in China a possible cause of flooding in Pakistan?

Towards the end of August, China, much like Europe was suffering from its “longest” and “strongest” heat wave on record, scorching temperatures swept across the country and  hit a high of 44 degrees. The nation fell into drought and the Yangtze river which millions of people rely on dried up and cracked in many parts.

In order to combat this drought cloud seeding activities were carried out by the government. Silver iodide rods were shot into the clouds, which induces the formation of ice crystals in the clouds, these ice crystals then fall as rain; rainfall is induced. The operation was successful with targeted areas receiving heavy rain, but this intervention into nature does not come without its consequences. The heavy rainfall was warned to cause flooding and landslides as the cracked earth was less able to absorb water.

Although the cloud seeding in China caused heavy rainfall and flooding in the nation, it does not appear to be connected to the heavy rainfall of the monsoon season in India, as the cloud seeding was very targeted at very specific regions in China alone. The monsoon’s causing the devastating floods in Pakistan are still a result of global warming and climate change and actions need to be taken to prevent this continuing to happen.  

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Written by
February 22, 2024
5 min read