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Pakistan faces twin threats of melting glaciers and heavy rainfall

Melting glaciers and prolific monsoonal rain resulted in historic flooding that devastated a large part of Pakistan in 3Q2022. The event resulted in nearly 1,700 fatalities, with around 20% of the deaths related to indirect causes such as diseases and malnutrition, says Aon, a global professional services firm that provides a wide range of risk, reinsurance, retirement, and health solutions.

In a report titled "Q3 Global Catastrophe Recap October 2022" released last week, Aon says that while actual flood damages and accompanying insured losses were not expected to exceed those seen in China or Australia this year, the overall impact to the Pakistani economy is likely substantial and far-reaching

Glacier Melting

Pakistan hosts the highest number of glaciers in the world outside of the polar regions. Long-term exposure to high temperatures can result in excessive melting and associated hazards.

Between June and September 2022, there were at least 75 glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) and 90 flash flood incidents arising from heavy glacier melting in Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northern Pakistan. Glacier melting raises the river stage in the Gilgit river, which connects with the Indus River downstream. The UN set up dozens of early warning systems in the northern valley and is planning to map glaciers in northern Pakistan within the next eighteen months to quantify the melting layers.

Record-breaking rainfall

But the main driver behind the catastrophic floods in the southern part of Pakistan was heavy monsoonal rainfall. The country observed its wettest July (+180%) and wettest August (+243%) since 1961, with the southern provinces, Balochistan and Sindh, showing monthly anomalies of +450% and +307% in July, and +590% and +726% in August. Multiple spells of well-pronounced lows barrelled the southern region as the monsoon axis was located south of its normal position this year.

The number of broken daily and monthly rainfall records was very significant, particularly in August. Overall, the country experienced seven widespread rainfall events between July and August.

By the end of Q3, seasonal floods in Pakistan had caused nearly 1,700 deaths and 13,000 injuries. A significant number of the fatalities in the last few weeks of September came from acute malnutrition or waterborne diseases such as typhoid, diarrhea, and malaria.


Affected by both melting glaciers in the north and warming oceans in the south, Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries exposed to the financial costs and physical risks of climate change.

Modelling study by Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) projected the number of consecutive wet days in the southern part of the country to increase in future with the rise in sea surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea. In addition, monsoon currents might be laden with more moisture under a warming atmosphere.

With the livelihood of many still affected by the recent flood, Pakistan will need a lot of resources and time to rebuild, while likely facing more pronounced natural hazard events in the future. Smart rebuilding efforts need to be undertaken to mitigate against the next deadly waves of natural hazard occurrences.



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