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Pakistan Floods–Is A Third Really Submerged?

September 5, 2022

By Paul Homewood

With special thanks to Ian Magness


One-third of Pakistan has been completely submerged by historic flooding, its climate minister says.

Devastating flash floods have washed away roads, homes and crops – leaving a trail of deadly havoc across Pakistan.

"It’s all one big ocean, there’s no dry land to pump the water out," Sherry Rehman said, calling it a "crisis of unimaginable proportions."

At least 1,136 people have died since the monsoon season began in June, according to officials.

The summer rain is the heaviest recorded in a decade and is blamed by the government on climate change.

"Literally, one-third of Pakistan is underwater right now, which has exceeded every boundary, every norm we’ve seen in the past," Ms Rehman told AFP news agency.

"We’ve never seen anything like this," the minister added.

This year’s record monsoon is comparable to the devastating floods of 2010 – the deadliest in Pakistan’s history – which left more than 2,000 people dead.

There is also growing concern about the looming cost of building back from this disaster, and Pakistan’s government has appealed for financial help from aid agencies, friendly countries and international donors.


The claim that a third of Pakistan has flooded has been widely reported, despite on the face of it being an absurd one. Much of Pakistan is mountainous or desert, and as the Washington Post map below shows, the area flooded is nothing like a third:


And this is borne out by the official report from OCHA:




The total area of Pakistan is 881,000 sq km, so the area flooded is about 8%.


As the BBC report notes, this is the worst flood there since 2010, and the direct cause of both is La Nina:



The monumental scale of the devastation and human suffering wrought by the August floods now ravaging large parts of Pakistan is difficult to fathom. But perhaps the most heart-wrenching aspect of the floods is that they aren’t entirely unprecedented. In fact, one of the most widespread flood disasters in modern global history gripped Pakistan just 12 years ago.

By some measures, the 2010 floods may have been even worse than the 2022 event, though we won’t know for sure until the current floods have run their course. Here is a comparison of the statistics to date; the 2022 estimates from various sources could rise substantially.

People affected:  20 million in 2010; 33 million in 2022;

People displaced:  6 million in 2010; 3.1 million in 2022;

Fatalities:  1,985 in 2010; 1,136 in 2022;

Homes destroyed:  1.8 million in 2010; 300,000 in 2022;

Livestock killed:  200,000 in 2010; 700,000+ in 2022;

Damage (2022 USD):  $12.9 billion in 2010; $10+ billion in 2022

One clear player in both the 2010 and 2022 disasters is La Niña. Both years featured La Niña conditions during northern summer. In fact, for the months of May through July, the two strongest La Niña years of the 21st century happen to be 2010 and 2022. 


In India, most flood years are associated with La Nina, and droughts with El Nino:


In addition, both floods were exacerbated by tropical cyclones. This year two storms, BOB 06 and BOB 07, hit Pakistan within days of each other in the middle of August.

The BBC report of the 2010 flood was rather more objective and factual than this year’s:


The recent floods in Pakistan’s Indus Valley are of truly Biblical proportions.

The UN estimates that the humanitarian crisis is now larger than the combined effects of the three worst natural disasters to strike in the past decade.

These include the Asian tsunami and the major earthquakes that devastated Kashmir and Haiti.

The headline figure of 1,700 killed masks the real scale of the disaster that has displaced 14 million people.

As I write, the southern city of Hyderabad, with a population of 1.5 million, stands on the brink of inundation as peak floodwaters surge downstream.

Scientists have described this catastrophe as a once-in-a-century flood.

But could climate change mean that floods of this magnitude, or even bigger, become a more regular occurrence?

The "Great Mother"

The Indus is one of the world’s great rivers.

From its headwaters in the Himalayas of Tibet, it flows north-west through India before turning sharply south across Pakistan. It finally discharges into the Arabian Sea, a journey of some 3,200km (2,000 miles).

Although some of its water comes from melting Himalayan glaciers, the vast majority is dumped by the summer monsoon.

As torrential rain sweeps in from the Indian Ocean, floods are triggered almost annually.

Humans have had long experience of Indus floods.

Its floodplain was one of the early cradles of civilisation 9,000 years ago. Here people gave up their nomadic ways to farm livestock and cultivate crops.

Today, the Indus Valley is home to 100 million people, who rely on it completely for drinking water and irrigation. To many, it is "the Great Mother".

Yet, as the catastrophic floods of August 2010 demonstrate, the Indus is both friend and foe.

History lessons

Geologists are working round the clock to better understand the ancient flood history of the Indus River.

Such history lessons will help to better predict its erratic behaviour and "plan for our own uncertain future", said Professor Peter Clift of Aberdeen University, an expert on the Indus River.

His team recently used makeshift "rigs" to drill down into the sands and mud of the Indus floodplain. By precisely dating layers of flood-deposited sand, they were able to work out past changes in river flow.

Their results were startling.

During a warm period ending about 6,000 years ago, the Indus was a monster river, more powerful and more prone to flooding than today.

Then, 4,000 years ago, as the climate cooled, a large part of it simply dried up. Deserts appeared whether mighty torrents once flowed.

Professor Clift believes that this failure of the Indus may have triggered the collapse of the great Harappan civilisation.

The city ruins of Mohenjo-daro, a relict of this lost culture, date from the time when the rivers ran dry.

But what caused these thousand-year cycles of Indus drought and flood?

Perfect storm

Professor Martin Gibling of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, a river expert who has worked in the region, thinks that changes in the strength of the monsoon caused by climate change may be to blame.

He explained: "Although many factors are involved, monsoon intensity is especially sensitive to the surface temperature of the Indian Ocean.

"During times of cooler climate, less moisture is picked up from the ocean, the monsoon weakens, and the Indus river flow is reduced."

So, will global warming have the reverse effect, returning the Indus to the monster river of 6,000 years ago?

"That is the million-dollar question", said Professor John Clague, from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, an expert on the Asian monsoon.

"There is huge uncertainty… and this is a matter of heated debate amongst scientists at present."

However, Professor Rajiv Sinha, from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, who has had first hand experience of Asian river floods, takes a more strident position.

"What all the climate models predict is that the distribution of monsoon rains will become more uneven in the future," he told BBC News.

"Total rainfall stays the same, but it comes in shorter more intense bursts."

In August 2010, more than half of the normal monsoon rain fell in only one week. Typically it is spread over three months.

Professor Sinha remarked: "Rivers just can’t cope with all that water in such a short time. It was five times, maybe 10 times, more than normal."

So, if the unusually intense 2010 monsoon is the shape of things to come – and that is uncertain – the future may hold more flood misery for the people of Pakistan.

‘When the levee breaks’

Climate change may not be the only cause of Pakistan’s woes. There is also a sense that the current floods have been exacerbated by the way the Indus has been managed.

In the UK, flood risk is reduced by building levees (embankments) along vulnerable part of rivers. These barriers prevent them from bursting their banks in extreme floods. It is a system that has served well for generations.

But Pakistan’s rivers are different.

UK rivers carry very little sand and mud. In contrast, the Indus is choked with sediment eroding off the Himalayas. Building levees causes the river channel to silt up.

This has the unexpected effect of making Pakistan’s rivers prone to even bigger floods when the levees eventually break.

"What we’ve done is apply a system from the West that just doesn’t work [in South Asia]," said Professor Sinha.

That problem has been made worse by deforestation. Trees protect the headwaters from erosion. But over the past half century, more sediment has been flushed down the rivers as forests have been cut.

However, Dr James Dalton, water management advisor to the IUCN, said that "building levees also brings huge benefits and is essential for managing agriculture, but such systems cannot cope well with extreme events."

Unpredictable future

Our understanding of why the Indus Valley is prone to catastrophic floods is steadily improving.

However, this will be of no consolation for those displaced by the worst humanitarian crisis in a decade.

And it is likely to become increasingly difficult to predict the future flood patterns of the Indus. Climate change will probably mean that monsoon rains are increasingly erratic.

History tells us that the "Great Mother" is fickle. For the 100 million people who call the floodplain home, the future is uncertain.


It is a sad fact of life that Pakistan is extremely vulnerable to the weather. During the global cooling of the 1960s and 70s, monsoon failures were commonplace across the Sub-Continent. Certainly in India they are always delighted to get more rainfall than unusual during the monsoon, as that means plentiful crops, even though floods regularly occur as well.

It is also worth noting the BBC’s comments about deforestation and levees.

The simple fact is that Pakistan has always suffered floods and drought, and always will. But monsoons and floods are absolutely essential if Pakistan is to be able to feed itself.

Meanwhile the All-India rainfall series is running about 5% above average, well within the “normal range”:


  1. Martin Brumby permalink
    September 5, 2022 11:47 am

    “That is the million-dollar question”, said Professor John Clague, from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, an expert on the Asian monsoon.

    Aha! Thinking about their Grant applications again!

  2. Max Beran permalink
    September 5, 2022 12:08 pm

    Most floods these days are reported with the adjective “flash” stuck on the front. As a flood hydrologist (now retired), a flash flood is characterised by a rapid onset with the flow rate (cubic metres per second) rising rapidly from a low value in response to a heavy burst of rain upstream. They are features of small headwater catchments typically following a thunderstorm. In extreme cases the flow “behind” catches up with the early flow to create effectively an initial wall of water (somewhat akin to a tidal bore though of course moving downstream, not upstream). They are often made more spectacular by the debris picked up from the bed and banks where it had accumulated since the last flood occurrence. A previously dry “gulch” would exacerbate this due to the hydraulic resistance reducing on initial wetting permitting the “speeding up” effect of the follow-up flow. A monsoon driven build-up on a huge catchment like the Indus would certainly not be thought of as a flash flood although of course some headwater valley flows might have qualified.

  3. September 5, 2022 12:19 pm

    I wonder what the population of the flooded area is now compared to 2010

    • W Flood permalink
      September 5, 2022 12:28 pm

      A lot more!

    • September 5, 2022 12:40 pm

      The population of Pakistan in 1950 was 40 million and today is 240 million. As with the UK, many people will be living in unsuitable places and there will have been much deforestation and other changes of land use

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      September 6, 2022 7:49 am

      Larkana’s population in 564,000, up from 395,000 in 2010.

  4. HotScot permalink
    September 5, 2022 12:32 pm

    Meanwhile, Pakistan spends $Bn’s on nuclear weapons that could be spent on flood mitigation.

  5. tomo permalink
    September 5, 2022 12:48 pm

    BBC Saturday R4 midday news

    “Pakistan’s worst ever flood”

    Google 10 seconds…

    1950 floods killed 2900+

    Mendacity on a stick


  6. Terry Breverton permalink
    September 5, 2022 12:49 pm

    they live in a flood plain – despatched by Prince Louis Battenburg

    Sent from Outlook

  7. Harry Passfield permalink
    September 5, 2022 12:51 pm

    As I was reading, I thought, silt!
    I’ve lived with a rather small tributary of the Avon running through my garden for 40 years. In the early years it rarely reached top if bank. But 1998 and 2007 was different: my house, standing 20′-30′ above the river bed was nearly flooded: l just lost a v large garden/flood plain.
    My point is, the river has never been dredged and over the 40 years the bed has accumulated c 3′ of silt and the banks below the garden, c 4′ of silt. All the EA do is raise levees in places at risk but that is no real solution imo. But, dredging….

    • tomo permalink
      September 6, 2022 10:26 am

      The Wiltshire Avon?

      The EA proposed an absurd multimillion scheme in Bradford on Avon town centre to raise the banks when the waterway is very clearly silted up to the point where you can walk across the river without getting your feet wet…

  8. terryfwall permalink
    September 5, 2022 12:52 pm

    “We’ve never seen anything like this,” the minister added.

    This year’s record monsoon is comparable to the devastating floods of 2010

    Two consecutive lines in this report!

    Why do people with the word “climate” in their job title manage to shoot themselves in the foot like this so often?

  9. Jack Broughton permalink
    September 5, 2022 1:02 pm

    Excellent report and good relevant responses too. Isn’t it a pity that our mighty media cannot report factually and accurately?

  10. Ben Vorlich permalink
    September 5, 2022 1:39 pm

    As always Climate Change is the “Get Out Of Jail Free” card for incompetent and corrupt government and administration. Also a good source of income for the corrupt

  11. Gamecock permalink
    September 5, 2022 1:59 pm

    “I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.”

    ‘The summer rain is the heaviest recorded in a decade and is blamed by the government on climate change.’

    Rather deflates the ‘crisis of unimaginable proportions’ when it is exploited for political purposes.

  12. September 5, 2022 1:59 pm

    This shows the stupidity of using the ‘Maldives are sinking’ argument in a mountainous country. But they probably thought that “Westeners are stupid enough to believe all this global warming nonsesne so here is our chance to put our hands in their pockets too”.

  13. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 5, 2022 2:01 pm

    As I posted on wuwt:-

    The whole history of Pakistan’s existence is defined by floods.

    “According to the Federal Flood Commission (FFC) report Pakistan has witnessed 20 major floods; in 1950, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2010, 2011 and 2012.”

    1950 had almost 2200 deaths.

    Exploding population, poor building standards in all the wrong places, massive corruption with $millions supposedly for new flood defences vanishing, poor/no maintenance of existing defences despite the cash being paid.

    Yer sure, USA to blame, climate change causes it all. What a load of….

    • September 5, 2022 2:57 pm

      Are you sure that Corona is not to blame as well?

    • Stuart Hamish permalink
      September 5, 2022 3:22 pm

      Paul the Wikipedia page ” List of Floods in Pakistan ” is abbreviated so the timescale starts in 1992 ….Is William Connolly still freelancing as a Wikipedia editor ?

      • Stuart Hamish permalink
        September 5, 2022 7:36 pm

        “During a warm period ending about 6,000 years ago ,the Indus was a monster river ,more powerful and more prone to flooding than today ” ……………..”Then 4,000 years ago ,as the climate cooled ,a large part of it simply dried up ”

        Then it can be logically surmised the Holocene Moist Phase was indeed warmer than today with atmospheric carbon dioxide at 280 -290 ppm ..A plethora of paleo-climatic data indicates this .Most recently discussed on Anthony’s WUWT blog .See ” Steve McIntyre vs. the Spawn of Yamal” and the northernmost advance of the Yamal larch treeline

        The droughts of 2200 – 1900 BCE extended in an arc from the Nile dependent Egyptian Old Kingdom to Mesopotamia Central Asia and the Indus Valley civilizations

        Pakistans geography is the other flooding vulnerability factor ..The monsoon rainclouds are hemmed in by the Himalayas and this results in more precipitation dumped in the highlands and northern river plains exacerbating flooding downstream

      • tomo permalink
        September 6, 2022 10:28 am

        Connolly ?

        – I noticed the truncated timescale in Wikipedia and smelt a rat!

  14. September 5, 2022 3:03 pm

    ‘The summer rain is the heaviest recorded in a decade and is blamed by the government on climate change.’
    . . .
    You bet – there’s a victim card to play…

    Climate change: Pakistan paying price for greed of rich countries
    September 05, 2022

    Islamabad : Pakistan is paying the price for the greed of the rich countries as it contributes less than 1% of greenhouse global emissions but is among the top 10 countries ‘severely’ affected by climate change.

  15. Gamecock permalink
    September 5, 2022 3:04 pm


  16. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 5, 2022 3:22 pm

    The weather will always conspire to kill millions, like the 1931 China flood. It is bonkers to claim achieving net zero will prevent deadly weather or that burning fossil fuels has made any detectable difference, whatever GIGO models ‘say’.

  17. Stephen H permalink
    September 5, 2022 4:13 pm

    Since reports of these floods first emerged it’s been obvious the Pakistanis have been eagerly and adroitly promoting the ludicrous “global warming” narrative.

    • Penda100 permalink
      September 5, 2022 4:20 pm

      And their entitlement to reparations.

  18. September 5, 2022 4:16 pm

    “Literally, one-third of Pakistan is underwater right now”. Why are they repeating this untrue claim except for political reasons and to promote hysteria? WHY is the BBC not correcting that. We know the flooding is bad but the BBC has a responsibility to report facts not opinion. Of course the BBC repeat any baseless claim and then defend themselves if challenged by saying “we are only reporting what is said by third parties”. Interesting however they seem incapable of reporting comments from third parties which do not follow the climate religious narrative.

    How Pakistan floods are linked to climate change

    What I find indefensible about this is when I read the following:

    “A sense of injustice is keenly felt in the country. Pakistan contributes less than 1% of the global greenhouse gases that warm our planet but its geography makes it extremely vulnerable to climate change”.

    There is enough anger in countries like Pakistan without the BBC encouraging the populous to blame outsiders for their internal problems.

    According to the BBC it is clearly “settled science” that the sun does not warm the planet, but greenhouse gases do! Funny thing given there is NO empirical data of any kind to support this claim but then since when did facts ever get in the way of any of the leftie narratives that the BBC so “impartially” follows?

    WHERE is the data to back up that outrageous claim? By every metric Pakistan is an emitter and a gross polluter.

    The country is either mountains or flood plain (flood plain, the clue is in the name). The population is growing exponentially so more of them live on and alter the flood plain but hey, never let facts confuse the BBC high priests of climate.

    Most people in the whole of the Indian subcontinent have more real issues to worry about than the obsessions of leftie white middle class humanities graduates. This is the BBC at its absolute worst. This is their attempt to stir up a sense of grievance among the population which you can be sure will be picked up by their corrupt politicians. Why blame your own bankrupt and corrupt practices when Western fools offer themselves up in hair shirts?

    The “sense of injustice” among Pakistanis should be regarding WHY their government spend so much money on a nuclear arsenal, money they can ill afford when the most of the inhabitable parts of the country do not even have basic infrastructure. It is interesting to speculate regarding how much mitigation of NATURAL climatic variability that money could buy?

    I had to smile (grimace) when I read this chestnut from our Georgina at the impartial BBC. I just love the arrogance with which she talks down to we mere mortals.

    “The science linking climate change and more intense monsoons is quite simple. Global warming is making air and sea temperatures rise, leading to more evaporation. Warmer air can hold more moisture, making monsoon rainfall more intense”.

    Anyone who claims to know what drives global warming and by inference climate is either a liar or a fool, or both. I wonder what our dear Georgina claims for herself?

    No Georgina. “Science” is based on empirical data. You are mixing up the word CLAIM with the word SCIENCE, AGAIN! You are talking about model output that is NOT science. It only becomes science if empirical data has been acquired by an accepted and falsifiable methodology and shown to support this claim or that by demonstrating statistical significance. There exists NO statistically significant empirical data of any kind to link CO2 to measurable global warming or your obsession, climate change regardless of how often and how wilfully the BBC promote this baseless claim. So Georgina, no statistically significant empirical data, no science, just opinion and claim.

    I would be penning yet one more letter of complaint to the BBC for shoddy and lazy opinion writing masquerading as journalism, but they stopped replying to me about 3 months ago.

    ho humm…….

    • Dave Andrews permalink
      September 6, 2022 4:21 pm

      Yes you can criticise Pakistan for its nuclear weapons programme but remember they are surrounded by China and India who both have nuclear weapons. In that context the Pakistani programme is perhaps understandable

  19. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 5, 2022 5:15 pm

    Regardless of the cause, millions of people need urgent help.
    In a world with food shortages caused by deliberate policy; re-wilding, biofuels, solar PV, nitrogen and carbon reduction orders, and in a world with energy shortages caused by self-denial of fossil fuel use….. the food aid won’t exist, let alone the means to deliver it in time.

    • Curious George permalink
      September 5, 2022 6:47 pm

      You can help with food, that leaves more of their money for nukes. Or you can donate arms, which allows them to allocate more money for food.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        September 5, 2022 8:12 pm

        That’s a good argument against the routine waste of foreign aid, but doesn’t apply in the current extraordinary circumstances.

  20. mwhite permalink
    September 5, 2022 7:00 pm

    Check out the Indian Ocean Sea surface temperatures.
    Not seen them that cool before.

  21. September 5, 2022 7:55 pm

    It could well be a third of the population affected, rather than a third of the land area.

    • September 6, 2022 8:51 am

      No. From the report:’People affected: 20 million in 2010; 33 million in 2022′.

      About 1 in 7 of the current population.

  22. Richard permalink
    September 5, 2022 10:33 pm

    “Urban flooding: the case of Karachi

    Governments are quick to blame devastating floods on climate change. But many reasons for these floods are to do with what governments have not done. Arif Hasan reviews why disastrous floods are taking place in Karachi and what is needed for this to change”

    1954- “At 2000 feet all I
    could see was a lake extending
    to the horizon. Only here and
    there a few treetops jutted out
    of the water. It looked just
    like a sea.”

  23. September 5, 2022 11:29 pm

    As the BBC report notes, this is the worst flood there since 2010, and the direct cause of both is La Nina

    Rubbish. It was widely reported at the time that the 2010 Pakistan floods were due to jet stream blocking, as they occurred on the other side of the same stuck jet stream as the 2010 Great Moscow Heatwave.

    Extreme 2010 Russian fires and Pakistan floods linked meteorologically, study suggests (Science Direct, 2011)

    That same year Mike Lockwood pointed out that the UK whiteout event that winter was also due to jet stream blocking, and that was caused by low solar activity, since 2010 was at the bottom of the 11 year solar cycle.

    Low solar activity link to cold UK winters (BBC, Apr 2010)

    There are papers in the literature showing the mechanism behind the sinuous Rossby waves during episodes of low solar activity – it’s a known phenomenon.

    We’re now 12 years after 2010 and at about the same time of year as the 2010 floods. We’re still in the (next) solar minimum. I’ve not been keeping track of the jet streams in the NH but I strongly suspect it is another solar minimum related jet stream blocking pattern. I could be wrong, but the climate industry fall over themselves to avoid making linkages between the Sun and climate events, so it’s hard to know one way or another.

    (Also the excellent CRWS jet stream map archive is no longer available since the meteorologist maintaining it passed away. I don’t know any other available databases of archived timestamped jet stream maps. So I can’t easily look up the jet stream patterns for this flood event.)

  24. Phoenix44 permalink
    September 6, 2022 9:24 am

    Highest for a decade but “never seen anything like it”.

    The entire report is nonsensical.

  25. September 6, 2022 11:19 am

    From The Conversation (IPCC supporters)…

    Pakistan floods: What role did climate change play?

    ‘Unusual monsoon rains over Pakistan have some predictability. They occur when multiple phenomena coincide, including a La Niña event in the Pacific and large meanders in the high-altitude jet stream, as was the case in both 2010 and this year.’

  26. Pancho Plail permalink
    September 6, 2022 12:51 pm

    I understand from the news on Classic FM I think it was, that it was melting glaciers wot dun it.

  27. Richard permalink
    September 7, 2022 9:17 am

    Same old , same old –

    1954- “At 2000 feet all I
    could see was a lake extending
    to the horizon. Only here and
    there a few treetops jutted out
    of the water. It looked just
    like a sea.”

  28. Richard permalink
    September 7, 2022 9:19 am

    “Urban flooding: the case of Karachi

    Governments are quick to blame devastating floods on climate change. But many reasons for these floods are to do with what governments have not done. Arif Hasan reviews why disastrous floods are taking place in Karachi and what is needed for this to change”

  29. Mark Hodgson permalink
    September 7, 2022 7:20 pm

    There’s a very good article by John Ridgway, and a continuing discussion about the Pakistan Floods at Cliscep:

    A Closer Look at Pakistan’s Floods

  30. September 9, 2022 1:44 pm

    Of the 5 rivers of the Punjab (which means 5 rivers) it seems that only the Indus has really flooded.
    Wiki already has an entry about these floods. It is densely-packed pot pourri of climate alarmist nonsense.

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