Smoke and Heat: Breaking Records in Southeast Asia

The long-range forecasts paint a bleak, hot outlook, with suffocating heat and smoky air across Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

A record heatwave combined with intense smoke from burning off cropland has created the worst living conditions in memory across mainland Southeast Asia, amid long-range weather forecasts that this year’s dry season will last longer than usual, to be followed by less rain than usual.

Temperatures are routinely exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, stoking fears that the heavy rains last year – which prompted the Mekong River Commission to declare a four-year drought over – were just a short respite.

Chiang Mai, hemmed in by mountains, has fared worse, with annual burning in northern Thailand and nearby Myanmar choking off the city, forcing thousands to flee. It is now ranked as the most polluted city on the planet, ahead of Lahore, Tehran, and Beijing.

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