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Why you should worry about the record-shattering heatwave

While the severe heat conditions could have wide-ranging impacts on health, it is also expected to affect wheat harvests

A worker drinks water while sorting wheat grain on a hot summer day, at the grain market in Jalandhar, Monday, April 11, 2022. Early-onset of summer and heatwave has affected wheat production this year. (PTI)

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The relentless heatwave that has hit multiple states in India seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. Capital city New Delhi was predicted to see a jump of two to three degrees Celsius in its maximum temperature on Wednesday. The Safdarjung Observatory – Delhi's base station – recorded a maximum temperature of 40.8 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, according to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report. It is expected to breach the 42-degree mark on Wednesday and soar to 44 degrees Celsius by Thursday, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The maximum temperature may even jump to 46 degrees Celsius in parts of Delhi, a Met department official said in the PTI report. The capital had recorded a maximum temperature of 43.2 degrees Celsius on 21 April 21, 2017. The all-time high maximum temperature for the month was 45.6 degrees Celsius, recorded on 29 April, 1941.

Also read: Climate Change Tracker: The rising threat of humid heatwaves

Not surprisingly, the IMD issued a yellow alert warning of a heatwave spell, starting 28 April. The IMD uses four colour codes for weather warnings – which includes green (no action needed), yellow (watch and stay updated), orange (be prepared) and red (take action). The IMD said the heatwave could lead to moderate health concerns for vulnerable people, including infants, elderly, people with chronic health conditions, in the affected regions.

Northwest India has been recording higher than normal temperatures since March last week, with weather experts attributing it to absence of active Western Disturbances over north India and any major system over south India, the PTI report adds. Local weather patterns have a big role in such situations.

A previous report from Mint in September 2020, had explained how it was already clear that heatwaves and chronic heat in India are now both an annual fixture due to climate change.

Many climate and weather experts also took to social media on Wednesday, with revealing data on this developing situation. Scott Duncan, a professional meteorologist from Scotland, explained on Twitter that the heatwave in India – and neighbouring Pakistan – could have an impact on more than 10% of the entire population of the planet.

Scorching conditions were also witnessed in Odisha on Tuesday, with the mercury crossing 40 degrees Celsius in 22 places, the state weather office said. The heatwave scorched parts of Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Angul, Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Deogarh, Bolangir and Mayurbhanj districts, a PTI report explains.

Fourteen weather stations recorded 42 degrees Celsius or more as Boudh town logged the highest of 44.5 degrees Celsius, as per the Bhubaneswar Meteorological Centre. The Odisha state government also announced the closure of anganwadi centres, colleges and universities for five days on Tuesday, a day after suspending classes in schools due to the sweltering heat. The anganwadi centres will be closed from Tuesday, while colleges and universities will remain shut from Wednesday onwards, a PTI report adds.

Western and southern parts of West Bengal also saw similar temperatures on Tuesday. Bankura continued to top the maximum temperature chart at 43.7 degrees Celsius, while Panagarh in the Paschim Bardhaman district followed closely at 43.5 degrees Celsius, the weather office said. The weather forecast for southern and western districts of West Bengal for the rest of the week also showed no signs of hope for a respite with zero rain in sight, a PTI report said.

People taking a stroll on a sunny day on The Ridge in Shimla. According to a New Scientist report, more than a billion people are facing a severe heat wave across India this week.
People taking a stroll on a sunny day on The Ridge in Shimla. According to a New Scientist report, more than a billion people are facing a severe heat wave across India this week. (HT_PRINT)

Barmer was the hottest place in Rajasthan on Tuesday, recording a maximum temperature of 45.1 degree Celsius. The maximum temperature in Jaisalmer was 44.4 degrees, Bikaner (44.1), Churu (43.8), Phalodi (43.6) and Jodhpur (43.2). According to the meteorological department, the maximum temperatures across the state was likely to increase further by one to two degrees in the next 24 hours.

According to a New Scientist report, more than a billion people are facing a severe heat wave across the country this week. While the conditions could have wide-ranging impacts on health, the heat is also expected to affect wheat harvests, the report adds further. “India's current heatwave has been made hotter by climate change,” Dr. Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute in Imperial College London said in a report from the Associated Press. The report added further that March was the hottest month in India in over a century and April has been similarly scorching. Otto said that unless the world stops adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, such heat waves will become even more common.

Also read: Why is the world witnessing record-shattering heatwaves?

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