Why India Will See More Heatwave Days in 2024 Are climate change predictions coming true?


The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted more heatwave days this summer, with the mercury already touching 38°C in several cities and likely to cross 40°C soon.

IMD Director General Mrityunjay Mahapatra said that most of the states will experience above normal temperatures from April to June. Different states are expected to have four to eight days of heatwave days each summer. Heat intensity is expected to be highest in May-June, especially in central India.

The warning comes at a time when the UN's World Meteorological Organization recently warned that the world, including Asia and India, will see unusually high temperatures in 2024 after breaking heat records last year.

Union Minister Kiran Rijiju had said during a press conference that India was “increasingly witnessing” many extreme weather events. [a] Anticipating severe heat waves in the coming three months, all stakeholders, including state governments, have made extensive preparations…”

What is a heat wave?

According to the IMD, a heat wave occurs when the above-normal temperature is 4.5 ℃ above the long-term average temperature.

A paper was issued entitled 'Heat and cold waves in India: occurrence and prediction' was published by M Ravichandran, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, on April 26 last year, which showed that heat waves mainly occur in two regions – central and northwestern India and coastal Andhra Pradesh.

More heatwave days occurred during El Niño years than during La Niña years. El Niño is associated with periods of warm weather due to the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), an oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon, while La Niña is the cool phase of ENSO.

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Heat attack in India

Between 1961 and 2021, heat waves in India increased by about 2.5 days due to global warming. The paper suggests that given the increased frequency of heat waves in central and northwestern India, two heat waves and an increase in heat waves by 12-18 days will occur.

For example, India recorded 280 heat wave days from March to May 2022, the highest in 12 years. Five states namely Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana accounted for 54% of heat waves in 2022.

India saw the hottest decade on record from 2014 to 2023, with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reaching new highs of 425 ppm.

According to the 2020 assessment by MOES, the country has seen a significant temperature increase of 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade since 1950.

The paper suggests that southern India, which experiences fewer heat waves than northern and central India, is likely to be hit by unusually high temperatures in the coming years.

Stress and heat stroke

Continuous exposure to heat can lead to heat stress or heat-related illnesses ranging from mild symptoms such as swelling, pain, fatigue, prickly heat to medical emergencies such as heat stroke.

A fatal condition, heat stroke can cause the brain to stop working due to uncontrolled body heat. In addition to neurological disturbances, an increase in core body temperature (at least 40 degrees Celsius), or hot, dry skin are other symptoms of heat stroke.

Extrinsic heat stroke occurs in young, fit adults, hours after physical exercise or outdoor activities. While a classic slow heat stroke is more fatal, individuals are unable to regulate their body temperature. This type of stroke is more common during heatwaves, and affects children, the elderly, and the sick.

Forecast for India

In May last year, a report by an international team of climate scientists under the World Weather Attribution banner revealed that human-caused climate change could increase the likelihood of a heat wave in India and Bangladesh in April 2023. 30 times more.

According to the report, the humid heat wave of April 2023 could be a recurring event, which also warned that India and Bangladesh could see more heat waves every year or two.

A recovery of La Nina conditions by June-August could mean better monsoon rains in 2024 than last year, said scientists monitoring developments in India.

He said that El Nino is having negative effects on the global climate in the second year of its development i.e. 2024.

Historical data suggests that past El Nino events have resulted in reduced monsoon rainfall in India, which continues with lower rainfall through 2023. This trend can lead to severe droughts and rising temperatures.

Although the full impact of El Nino on the Indian monsoon is uncertain, significant heat waves will be observed from February to June. This is likely to lead to heavy rains in South India and dry spells in the North.

The increasing impact of El Nino requires action from government, industries and individuals to reduce emissions, prioritize sustainable practices, use renewable resources and participate in energy conservation efforts.

News deskThe News Desk is a team of passionate editors and writers who break down and analyze …read more

First Publication: 03 April 2024, 15:03 IST

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