In this article, we will discuss Heat Waves in India. So, let’s get started.
- A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western and South Central parts of India.
- It is a condition of air temperature which becomes fatal to the human body when exposed.
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) requires that temperatures should reach at least 40℃ in the plains and at least 30℃ in the hilly regions, and should reflect an increase of at least 5℃-6℃ above the normal temperature to be classified as a heatwave.
- The combination of global warming and population growth in already-warm cities in India is the primary driver of increased heat exposure.
- The Urban Heat Island also elevates temperatures within cities, which will be amplified during the heatwaves.
- UHIs occur when cities replace natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat.
Scenario of Heat Waves in India
- India, along with Bangladesh and Pakistan, recorded the greatest losses to work hours (295 billion hours) due to heat exposure in 2020, according to the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change released in 2021.
- India has become 15% more vulnerable to extremes of heat than in 1990.
- Indian senior citizens were among the most affected ones due to heatwave exposure.
- More recently, most parts of western Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and parts of Gujarat, Odisha are reeling under severe heat wave-like conditions, with maximum temperatures hovering well over 40℃.
- The foothills of the Western Himalayas recorded very high day and night temperatures – 7 to 10 degrees above normal.
- Delhi recently recorded a 36.6℃, 6 degrees above normal.
- The IMD’s long-term temperature trends indicate that the climate crisis is having a pronounced impact on increasing the frequency and severity of heatwaves in India.
- Average temperatures across seasons have seen a sharp upward trend in the country since 1991.
- The temperature rising trend is more evenly pronounced during monsoon (June to September) and post-monsoon (October to December) seasons.
Impact of these Heat Waves
- Mortality and Morbidity: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the Second Part of AR6 Report flagged that heat extremes are causing human deaths and morbidity.
- The increased heat will lead to an increase in diseases like diabetes, circulatory and respiratory conditions, as well as mental health challenges.
- Crop Damage: The fallout of these heat waves is far more complex – the concurrence of heat and drought events are causing crop production losses and tree mortality.
- Less Food Production and High Prices: The risks to health and food production will be made more severe from the sudden food production losses exacerbated by heat-induced labour productivity losses.
- These interacting impacts will increase food prices, reduce household incomes, and lead to malnutrition and climate-related deaths, especially in tropical regions.
- Labour Productivity Loss: A higher urban population also implies heat-induced labour productivity loss, resulting in economic impacts.
- Millions of farmers and construction workers could have lost income because on some days it’s just too hot for them to work.
- Wildfires and Droughts: The Lancet report, 2021 showed that populations of 134 countries experienced an increase in exposure to wildfires with droughts becoming more widespread than ever before.