Disaster season: heat waves sweep the world – in charts and maps

Disaster season: heat waves sweep the world – in charts and maps
Spring has just arrived and already all temperature records for April are being smashed around the world. / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin April 8, 2024

2023 was the hottest on record, with most of the year posting temperatures of 1.5°C above the long-term pre-industrial baseline. This year is going to be worse, as temperature records around the world have been smashed in the last week and the annual disaster season caused by extreme weather gets under way.

By April 7 a total of 108 countries, over half of those on the world's list, had broken monthly records. From Berlin to Phuket, city after city is recording all-time high temperatures as records tumble on a daily basis.

As bne IntelliNews reported in February, climate alarm bells were already ringing loudly as planet entered uncharted territory in 2024, but now the feared problems are making themselves manifest in the form of roasting heatwaves coming far too early in the year.

The Paris Accord target of keeping temperatures below a 1.5°C increase has not been breached yet; technically that threshold will only be passed when global temperatures are above 1.5°C for 1,000 consecutive days, which could come sometime in 2025, but clearly the world is already close to the limit.

And it is also becoming increasingly clear that our climate models are wrong and global warming is accelerating much faster than expected. That is because the models don’t take into account the removal of aerosols, especially sulphur dioxide that was removed from shipping fuel a few years ago, which has had the unintended consequence of allowing more sunlight to reach the earth’s surface.

The result is the earth’s energy imbalance has tipped so that the planet now absorbs more of the sun’s heat than it irradiates. That means in addition to the heat effects of greenhouse gases (GHGs), simple sunlight is now adding a net heating effect to the earth, increasing surface temperatures faster than before the fuel clean up.

In the last six months scientists have been scratching their heads to understand why global warming is accelerating and are only belatedly starting to suggest the removal of the ship fuel pollution could have been a bad idea. On top of that, governments have failed to act, with emissions now at an all-time high and the production of fossil fuels set to double, led by the US, which has become the biggest producer and exporter of oil and gas in the world in the last year. 

Currently only Bhutan, the islands states of Madagascar, Niue and Comoros in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Gabon in Africa, Guyana and Suriname in South America and Panama in Central America have already achieved net zero. 

On the same day as many of the alarming record global temperatures were being reported over the weekend, climate activist Greta Thunberg was arrested in The Hague during a peaceful protest demanding governments around the world to take more immediate and comprehensive action. 

Sea Temperatures

Sea temperatures started this year at record highs, breaking the all-time records set only a year previously. However, as April has started the temperatures have begun to fall, although they still remain higher than last year.

Climatologists warn that the bath-warm sea temperatures will fuel more extreme storms and hurricanes this year, starting around May. Some scientists worry that this year we will see the first ever city-destroying category six hurricanes.

Sea temperatures started 2024 at an all-time high

The extreme weather conditions are seeing many other changes in the global climate patterns that will lead to unpredictable consequences. The Arctic polar vortex has completely reversed course in the last few weeks and is now spinning backwards. This has happened before, but it's unusual in winter. What impacts this will have are still unknown.

The vortex is a seasonal phenomenon. The powerful wind system forms in late summer, when the Arctic polar region starts to lose incoming sunlight as Earth's orbit causes the planet's axis to be tilted away from the Sun, causing the change in direction of the vortex.

The Arctic polar vortex completely reversed course in the last few weeks and is now spinning backwards


Winter has faded extremely rapidly in Europe in the last two weeks and spring has effectively been skipped. In large parts of Europe it was hotter on April 7 than it usually gets in the middle of summer. 

Part of the cause of a sudden surge of heat in Europe is Storm Kathleen, which has been moving across the Atlantic and before ravaging the Continent it has scooped up warm air from Africa and pushed it into Europe. Thanks to the effect of the storm, Europe is currently heating up twice as fast as the other continents.

Temperatures across all of Europe are soaring in April

Dozens of monthly heat records fell in France on April 6, even though it’s only early April, but in southwest France the temperatures are already touching 34°C. The lowest temperature of 22.5°C in Biarritz in France on April 6 was the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in France for the month of April. In fact, 22.5°C was one of the highest minimum temperatures ever measured at this station since records began.

Daily low temperature measures for Biarritz France

Record temperatures were recorded across France on April 6

German temperatures in the first week of April jumped to a maximum of 30.1°C with an average of 24.2°C across the country – the earliest 30°C ever recorded. Temperatures in Germany were driven up by a unusual wind blowing from the southwest that brought dry hot air from the Sahara to Germany, even coating cars in Berlin with a patina of sand from the Sahara Desert. 

The highest temperature, in the town of Ohlsbach, was 30.1°C on April 6, by far the earliest 30°C in Germany history. In the south temperatures hit 29.8°C in Freiburg, 29.5°C in Emmendingen and 29.4°C in Muellheim.

Record-high temperatures were recorded across Germany in the first week of April

March in Slovakia was also at record highs, after a record warm February. The Slovak temperature anomaly was close to 3.5°C more than the average between 1991 and 2020 and, together with Poland, Czech, Hungary and Serbia, had the world's highest anomaly. The Slovak stations in red figures (the most) were above the previous warmest records.

Slovakia records the highest temperature anomalies in the world in April

Switzerland also recorded record highs just under the 30°C mark, with the highest in Chur of 28.5C.


Some of the hottest temperatures have already been recorded in Southeast Asia, where temperatures are already breaking records.

Pakistan's weather in March deviated significantly from the norm with temperature and precipitation records spiking. The average temperature across the country was recorded at 18.78°C, slightly below the norm by 0.08°C, but rainfall was significantly higher. As bne IntelliNews reported, extreme rainfall is another aspect of the Climate Crisis as rising temperatures lead to more vaporisation of water; humidity is itself a greenhouse gas (GHG) that accelerates warming and can also turn into the so-called “wet bulb effect” where the combinations of high temperatures and humidity create conditions where human life cannot survive.

Pakistan is approaching wet bulb conditions after a remarkable 47% increase in average precipitation, with a total of 30.6mm rainfall, more than normal.

Thailand once again broke all heat records, with March 2024 registering an average temperature of a sweltering 29.6°C. Some of the highest temperatures were in the resort town of Phuket, where temperatures soared to 39.4°C on April 6, beat its all-time high again after another record hot night. So far this year, Phuket has broken every previous all-time temperature high record every single day of the year. Chang Mai in northern Thailand had its hottest night ever at 29°C. Thailand set new all-time high temperature records every single day and will see temperatures climb even higher.

At the same time, the nation saw a significant 24% dip in rainfall compared to expected norms, exacerbating dry conditions especially in the southern regions, which threatens its agricultural output. Last year saw a rice crisis after India banned exports due to low yields that knocked on to the rest of Southeast Asia; Thailand is the second most important rice producer after India.

Extreme temperatures in Thailand have led to a drought in the southern half of the country

Hundreds of records for Micronesia fell on April 7 all the way up to Sri Lanka, which came close to its hottest day ever.

In Kaimana in Indonesia saw its hottest April day ever of 36.2°C. At Cape Naturaliste in Australia temperatures hit 34.1°C, its hottest ever April day. Pong Sa Ly in Laos had its hottest day ever at 35°C.

Temperatures in Anantapur in India were even higher, hitting 44°C, which tied the previous record for an all-time high.

Latin America 

The whole of northern South America is currently suffering from a scorching heatwave. Unprecedented hot nights of 27.5°C for April were recorded at Point Salines in Grenada, the hottest April night ever.

There has also been record heat in French Guiana, Paraguay and Brazil, which has seen temperatures of over 35°C in the last week.

 A heatwave is scorching most of northern South America

Abnormal and unprecedented high temperatures are still lingering over Bolivia, with the 38.4°C measured at Puerto Suarez being its hottest April day on record. Several minimums were 25°C more than the recorded average – also record for April. Costa Rica had its hottest ever day in April of 40.2°C on April 6 at Palo Verde and Guatemala set a new monthly record with temperatures spiking to 35°C.

In March Cuba had an average temperature of 25.8°C , an anomaly of +2.0°C above normal, and the hottest March on record. In the cities of Cabo Cruz and Santiago de Cuba in the west of the country, a new temperature record of 35.1°C was set.

Cuba sets new all-time record temperature for March


Africa too has been grappling with a heatwave emergency in the last week.

In North Africa, Morocco beat the monthly May and June records already in April by 7°C and is already recording temperatures that are close to the hottest nights ever recorded for July. Algeria is also facing sweltering weather that is off the chart.

The Horn of Africa has been facing exceptional high temperatures, prompting emergency responses in various countries. South Sudan has been forced to close schools in anticipation of temperatures rising to 42°C in the coming week, significantly higher than the seasonal average of 35°C.

The temperature spike is due to shifts in the global wind patterns that have also affected Europe and the sun’s equatorward trajectory during the equinox when day and night durations are equal.

The entire Horn of Africa region has been affected, including Kenya, where temperatures are also hitting record highs. Temperature anomalies in Kenya ranged from 1.5°C to 2.5°C all over the country, making it the hottest March on record. Rainfalls were abundant in the south but very scarce in the north.

In places like Zimbabwe and the Niger Delta, crop failures and shrinking water sources are feared as the spring wears on.

A heatwave has scorched East Africa, continuing a heatwave throughout the continent. Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe all saw temperatures at 4°C to 5°C above their February averages. 

Ethiopia witnessed a break of the drought in Central and Southern areas in March, but a continuation of the scorching hot and dry conditions in the eastern and southwest plains. See the rainfall and soil moisture anomalies map by Ethiopian Meteorological Service.

Ethiopia has been suffering from heatwaves

that have exasperated drought in the east and south of the country