Hotter Times Ahead For India

A heat wave that is currently gripping large parts of the Indian sub-continent may be a sign of hotter times to come, climate scientists say.

AsianScientist (Jun. 12, 2015) – By Archita Bhatta – Climate scientists say that a heat wave that is currently gripping large parts of the Indian sub-continent and has caused more than a thousand deaths over the last two weeks may be a sign of hotter times to come.

Of the 1,826 deaths reported a large proportion was from the Telengana region on the south-eastern coast of peninsular India. On 23 May, Khammam town in Telengana recorded 48 degrees Celsius.

“Normally, during May end, areas in the south and east receive moisture-laden south-westerly winds,” explains Dr. Subimal Ghosh, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), Mumbai, specializing in rainfall projections under climate change. “Instead, this year, dry desert winds from the western part of the sub-continent have been hitting the eastern coast and increasing temperatures in these regions.”

Ghosh co-authored a study, published in April in Regional Environmental Change, that predicted that between 2070 and 2099, India will experience intense, longer duration heat waves at a higher frequency.

The study done by scientists from IIT-B, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and Monash University, Australia, also said that southern India, an area normally spared heat waves, would be severely affected by the end of the century.

Northern India, too, saw an increase in the number of “severe heat wave” days over the last two weeks of May, considered the pre-monsoon month. Allahabad city, on the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, recorded a high of 47.7 degrees Celsius.

India Meteorological Department (IMD) declares a severe heat wave when the maximum temperature recorded in a single day exceeds 45 degrees Celsius, irrespective of the average, normal maximum temperature for a particular region. If the maximum temperature is less than 45 degrees Celsius, it can still be declared a severe heat wave day, provided the maximum temperature is seven degrees greater than the normal average.

According to the study, in northern India, the average number of severe heat wave instances may reach 30 degrees Celsius during the pre-monsoon hot season, leading to increased mortality rates. In the 1978-1999 period, there were 223 heat wave instances, resulting in 5,300 deaths.

Dr D. Sivananda Pai, head of long-range forecasting at IMD, agrees that heat wave days are on the increase in parts of India. His paper published in October 2013 in Mausam, the IMD journal, used 1961-2010 data to show an increasing trend in the number of severe heat wave days in the north, north-western and central India.

Prolonged increase in temperature during a severe heat wave can produce fatal thermoregulatory stress on human bodies. In India, fatalities are attributed to the fact that a large portion of the workforce is engaged in outdoor activities like construction and agriculture, while the country has limited capacity to deal with emergencies.

The article can be found at: Murari et al. (2015) Intensification Of Future Severe Heat Waves In India And Their Effect On Heat Stress And Mortality.


Source: SciDev.Net.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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