India is no stranger to natural disasters, from floods to earthquakes, but according to research by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), heat waves have caused more deaths in the country than any other natural disaster except for tropical cyclones.
The IMD has released a new report titled ‘Heat and Cold Waves in India Processes and Predictability’ which predicts an increase in the duration of heat waves from 12 to 18 days in most of India, including the coasts and the southern peninsula, by 2060.
The report recommends several measures to combat heat stress, including upgrading buildings through insulation and ventilation, raising awareness, changing working hours, early warning and creating cool shelters.
According to the report, heat waves have been responsible for more deaths in India than any other natural disaster except tropical cyclones. The IMD used data from 1961 to 2020 to analyze the weather and the occurrence of heat waves.
A heat wave is declared when the maximum temperature is above 40 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees above normal, while a severe heat wave is declared when the temperature is above 40 degrees Celsius and 6, 5 degrees above normal.
Heat waves are most common in central and northwestern India from March to June and in the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, slightly less frequently than in northern India.
Rising Heatwaves threaten population
Heat waves have caused more deaths in India than any other natural disaster, except for tropical cyclones, according to research by IMD.
The study analyzed the occurrence of heat waves and climatology using data from 1961 to 2020. IMD declares a heat wave when the maximum temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius and is 4.5 degrees higher than average. A severe heat wave is declared when the temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius and is 6.5 degrees above average.
Heat waves are most frequent from March to June in central and northwestern India, as well as in the coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
In some areas, heat waves can occur up to four times per season, and on average more than two heat waves occur in the north of the country and along the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
The report suggests that global warming will cause an increase in two heat waves and an extension of heat wave duration by 12 to 18 days between 2020 and 2064, according to its global projections.
The frequency of severe heat waves is expected to increase 30 times the current climate by the end of the 21st century, as long as the global average temperature is limited to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial conditions.
Heatwave Trends in India
According to a report by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, most of the weather stations in India have shown an increasing trend in the frequency, duration and severity of heat waves over the past 60 years.
On average, the northern parts of the country and coastal Andhra Pradesh and Odisha experience more than two heatwaves per year, with some areas experiencing more than four in one season.
The duration of heat waves has increased by three days in the last 30 years, and it is projected that by 2060 there could be an increase of two heat waves per year, resulting in 12 to 18 heat wave days per year.
The report also highlights that regions like mainland India and coastal areas that were not previously prone to heatwaves could also experience them in future scenarios.
The longest heatwaves in central and northwestern India and coastal Andhra Pradesh exceed 10 days in many seasons, with some areas even experiencing heatwaves lasting more than 15 days.
The most severe heat waves typically last more than five days in central and northwestern India, but are shorter in the southern part of the peninsula and coastal Andhra Pradesh.
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