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Extreme heat in India, hours of eclipse until early May

A woman with children covering their heads with a cloth to protect from the sun.

India’s severe heat waves are expected to last until early next month, meaning millions of people will have to endure more days of dangerous temperatures and hours of eclipses.

The country is preparing for temperatures to rise to a record high, according to Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, head of meteorological department. The agency is working with states and the government’s disaster management arm to get early warnings to those on the ground, he said in an interview in New Delhi.

Thermometer readings have already reached 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in Central and Northern India, with two months to go before the monsoon season that typically brings cool rains. They reached their highest level since 1901 last month. The heat tested power networks as air conditioners operate at full power and threaten wheat crops. Local authorities are implementing action plans to manage health risks and even deaths, Mohapatra said.

“Why is it so hot this year? The only reason is global warming,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. “We’ve been looking at data for seventy years and the intensity of the number of heat waves is directly in response to global warming.”

India is expected to experience more frequent and intense heat waves, extreme rainfall and erratic monsoons in the coming decades as the planet warms, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. McKinsey estimates that working hours lost due to heat waves could cause losses of as much as $ 250 billion, or 4.5% of gross domestic product, by the end of the decade.

For India, the world’s poorest super-emitter, adapting to a warmer earth is just as urgent a task as reducing planetary warming emissions. A recent study showed a 62% increase in heat-related deaths over the past 20 years. An official evaluation of climate change published in 2020 has shown that the frequency and intensity of droughts and cyclones have increased significantly over the past six decades. The number of days of intense rainfall and the rate at which sea levels rise has more than doubled over that period.

The disasters highlight how countries such as India, which are responsible for relatively little of the greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere, often carry the heaviest of climate impacts. It means spending billions to protect themselves instead of investing in economic development that can lift millions out of poverty. These countries, especially in Africa, also lack the resources to monitor and predict the weather so that they can better prepare for extreme events.

India is investing in improving its observation data and computer capabilities to build better climate models, Mohapatra said. The country’s official weather forecaster has managed to reduce the number of deaths caused by cyclones to six in 2021 from 10,000 per year in 1999 by making more accurate short-term forecasts.

Yet the country is racing against the clock as more volatile weather becomes more difficult to predict. “Exacerbating climate change limits the predictability of events,” Mohapatra said.

For now, local governments may need to consider a series of measures to keep people safe from the heat, Mohapatra said. They can limit school hours to the cooler morning hours from 07:00 to 11:00, discourage farm and construction work in the afternoon and provide extra support to street vendors, outdoor workers, police and those living in the slums without access to refrigeration appliances.

The Meteorological Department issued an orange warning for the next five days for Northwest and Central India on Thursday night. The region, home to some of the world’s most polluted air, has not received the light summer rains that usually come in April and May to lower temperatures and flush away dirt particles.

“IPCC projections clearly show that heat intensity is increasing and interfering with our daily lives, and the impact is on vulnerable people who have few resources in regions where we do not even have observations,” said Koll of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. said. . “We need higher resolution data and, more importantly, we need long-term policies.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by techlives staff and is being published from a syndicated stream.)

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