'Heatwave in India linked with climate change'

Climate experts link the heat wave in India to climate change. They stress on the need for public cooling areas, uninterrupted electricity and access to safe drinking water, especially for the vulnerable groups during the extreme heat days. Details here.

Heatwave in India linked with climate change

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Climate scientists have observed that the heatwave building across India and Pakistan is directly connected with climate change, as per an analysis shared by Climate Trends, a Delhi-based strategic communications firm that works on raising awareness about the harmful impact of climate change on the environment.

The heat that hit India earlier in April is a result of higher global temperatures caused by human activities, noted Mariam Zachariah and Friederike Otto, climate scientists at Imperial College London.

"Before human activities increased global temperatures, we would have seen the heat that hit India earlier this month around once in 50 years. But now it is a much more common event - we can expect such high temperatures about once in every four years. And until net emissions are halted, it will continue to become even more common," said Mariam Zachariah, Research Associate at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, in the brief note.

The statements come on the heels of the heatwave alert issued by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on April 26 as temperatures soared between 40 and 42 degree Celsius (C) in Delhi. The Met department in its press release also stated that heatwave is likely to prevail over Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, Madhya Maharashtra & Chhattisgarh between April 28 and 30.

A heat wave happens when the temperature of a place crosses 40 degrees C in the plains, 37 degrees C in coastal areas, and 30 degrees C in the hills. If a place registers a temperature that is 4.5 - 6.4 degree C more than the normal temperature for the region on that day, then it's declared a heatwave. If the temperature is over 6.4 degree C more than the normal, the IMD declares it as a 'severe' heat wave.

The forecast temperatures, issued by Climate Trends, are similar to those seen in the deadly heat waves that hit India in June 2015, which killed at least 4,500 people. That year, New Delhi airport reached 44.6 degree C, while the hottest temperatures in India were seen in Jharsuguda, Odisha at 49.4 degree C.

'Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh suffered the most due to a series of heatwave this summer'

In its recent analysis of IMD's data of the early heatwaves in 2022, New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, noted that the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have suffered the most due to a series of heatwaves in the country this summer.

The early heatwaves of 2022 began on March 11 and have impacted 15 Indian states and Union territories. Of these, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have witnessed 25 heat waves and severe heatwave days so far. This is followed by the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, which has recorded 21 heatwave and severe heat wave days since March 11 this year.

News reports have also highlighted how India has already suffered the hottest March in 122 years of weather data. Wheat yield in Punjab has reportedly dipped by more than five quintals per hectare, from 48.68 quintals per hectare last year to 43 quintals this year, because of the intense heat in March. The maximum drop in yield was reported in Bathinda and Mansa districts where three farmers died by suicide allegedly due to the low crop yield.

Experts stress on the need for action to help people survive climate change

The local government in West Bengal has advised schools to shift classes to the cooler morning hours and stock up on oral rehydration salts, in case children become sick. Some schools are even moving classes online, so children don't have to venture outside in the blistering conditions. Meanwhile, in Odisha, higher education classes have been stopped completely, the press brief noted.

"While taking mitigation measures is a must to limit future warming, the extreme, frequent, and long-lasting spells of heat waves are no more a future risk. It is already here and is unavoidable," Abhiyant Tiwari, Assistant Professor & Programme Manager, Gujarat Institute of Disaster Management was quoted as saying.

He added that the heat action plans must ensure adaptation measures like public cooling areas, ensuring uninterrupted electricity, access to safe drinking water, and changing the work hours of labourers, especially during the extreme heat days.


Additionally, Dileep Mavalankar, Director, Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar noted that cities should monitor all-cause mortality data daily along with data for hospital admissions and ambulance calls to compare it with the last five years of data to get the real indication of heat stress on mortality.

"People need to watch out for these advisories, stay indoors, keep themselves hydrated and rush to the nearest health centre if they feel moderate signs of heat-related illness. There's a special need to monitor the old and vulnerable, just like we did during COVID as they can develop heat strokes even when sitting at home," he was quoted in the press brief.

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