Pakistan city hits nearly 50˚C (122˚F) as blistering heatwave grips nation

Pakistan is in the grip of a blistering heatwave, with parts of the nation already scorched by temperatures of nearly 50˚C (122˚F) as officials warn of acute water shortages and a threat to health.

Swathes of Pakistan have been smothered by high temperatures since late April, in extreme weather the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has warned is consistent with climate change.

On Thursday, the city of Jacobabad in Sindh province hit 49.5˚C (121˚F), the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said, with temperatures forecast to remain the same until the end of the week.

Nationwide, the PMD alerted temperatures were between 6˚C (11˚F) and 9˚C (16˚F) above normal.

“This year we have jumped from winter right into summer,” said PMD Chief Forecaster Zaheer Ahmad Babar.

Pakistan has endured heightened heatwaves since 2015, he said, focused in upper Sindh province and southern Punjab province.

“The intensity is increasing, and the duration is increasing, and the frequency is increasing,” he said.

Punjab province irrigation spokesperson Adnan Hassan said the Indus river – Pakistan’s key waterway – had shrunk by 65% “due to a lack of rains and snow” this year.

Sheep have reportedly died from heatstroke and dehydration in the Cholistan Desert of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province which also serves as the national breadbasket.

“There is a real danger of a shortfall in food and crop supply this year in the country should the water shortage persist,” Hassan said.

Pakistan, home to 220 million people, says it is responsible for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

However, it ranks as the eighth most affected nation by extreme weather events, according to a 2021 study by environmental group Germanwatch.