This summer season has brought along unprecedented heatwaves for the citizens of India. A few weeks back the Indian meteorological department (IMD) recorded the hottest March in the last 120 years. The intense heatwave in mid and late April brought the temperature from 4.5 to 8.5°C above normal in central, east, and northwest India.
The highest recorded temperature in the nation was 45.9 in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh on 27 April 2022. According to the India Meteorological Department, a high of 45.1°C (113.2°F) was recorded at Barmer in West Rajasthan in the northwest the day before. Temperatures of 42-44°C (108-111°F) were observed in many additional locations.
To know more about this issue CitySpidey talked to Aditya Pundir, Director of India and South Asia, The Climate Reality Project India. Says he, "The temperature of earth has already increased by 1.10C and that is why the whole climate system is impacted. The land is getting heated up faster than oceans and due to this uneven heating and heat build-up difference between temperatures of the poles and equator is decreasing leading to expansion of the Headly cells and a more dry and hotter climate in certain regions. In the month of March, over the western part of India, there was the formation of Anticyclone conditions which lead to high pressure and clear skies with very little wind movement to distribute heat. This generally leads to dry, hot conditions with very little rain.”
Aditya Pundir also mentions, "The AR6, IPCC report predicts many more heatwaves in South Asia in the coming times. This is only starting because IMD also stated that maybe the temperature will touch 50°C in the coming times. The temperature of the earth has increased by 1.10C leading to more evaporation from the oceans and currently, there is 7% more moisture in the atmosphere, which will lead to more extreme events happening like heavy rains and flash floods in the future.”
He further added. "In the last 8 lakh years the highest level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million and now it's risen to more than 410 parts per million, and the level of this carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been rising due to excessive use of fossil fuels like coal, gasoline, and gas. So the problem is entirely man-made due to excessive reliance on greenhouse gases producing fossil fuels. These greenhouse gases are essential and work as a blanket on earth and maintain its temperature, but today we have an excess of them leading to warming. The level of greenhouse gas emission has been on the rise for the last 150 years and despite COVID impacting the economies the world over we are seeing a rise in emissions. The IPCC report says that if we want to maintain the temperature of the earth below 1.5° then it is essential that we cut the emission levels by 45% by 2030. The government needs to prepare now for these heatwaves as they prepared for Covid in the past because it will impact people's health directly."
In India the number of manual laborers is very high and working outside in this heat is affecting people's health directly. Farmers, street vendors, rickshaw pullers, and other people who are doing fieldwork are suffering from this problem which is making them ill and dehydrated.
Talking about how this situation is affecting people Aditya Pundir says, " According to the latest news the farmers are complaining about the adverse impact of the March heat on the wheat crops! Heat is going to impact food & water and it will directly impact the health of people. Because in India there are a number of people who are doing fieldwork on markets, construction sites, agriculture activities, etc. Heatwaves can increase the risk of heart failure, heat strokes, dehydration, and many other problems."
Heat-related illnesses, poor air quality, insufficient rainfall, and reduced crop yields are all consequences of the heatwave. Furthermore, power demand has increased, and the coal supply has decreased, and this leads to the country's biggest electrical crisis as compared to the last six years. Mountain snow has been melting fast in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh's northern areas. According to the Forest Survey of India, more than 300 big wildfires were raging across the country on April 27.
"In India, 70% of electricity comes from coal and this makes us highly dependent on this fossil fuel, but the good news is that share of renewable energy is increasing very fast. The share of Solar and Wind energy has reached 10% of the global energy supply. Government should try to push renewable energy like solar on a war-footing so that this problem will not increase in the future", says Pundir.
As per the forecast the heatwave is slated to worsen over the next few days and it is predicted to last for at least another week.
In India, heatwaves are widespread in the spring and early summer, especially in May, which is the warmest month of the year. However, the arrival of the monsoon season, which lasts from late May to September, typically brings relief. According to India's Ministry of Earth Sciences, the number of spring heatwaves has been growing, with 12 of the country's 15 warmest years on record occurring since 2006.