New Delhi: An unusually early and brutal heat wave is scorching parts of India as cool breezy spring days were cut short that suddenly turned into unrelenting heat.
Scientists and experts say climate change is making severe temperatures hotter and more frequent. Much of India – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and other major cities – received rain in March but the temperature quickly turned into sweltering heat in April – which the experts say is unusual with the heatwave arriving early this time.
Early arrival of heatwave in India – A cause of concern
The main summer months – April, May and June – are always excruciatingly hot in most parts of India before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures. But the heat wave has arrived early and grown particularly intense in the past decade, killing hundreds every year.
Last year, India barely enjoyed the cool spring season as temperatures quickly turned into summer-like conditions. Summer arrived much faster than last year this time. Experts feel most of India skipped the spring season and it was a more of a touch-and-go kind of a story. The weather experts and scientists are worried that such weather conditions could become typical and this may be a sign for worse times to come.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) declares a heat wave when the temperature is at least 4.5 C (8 F) above average. India’s worst heat wave since 1992 was in 2015, when at least 2,081 people died, as per a report by The Associated Press.
Heat waves are especially dangerous for daily wage workers, rickshaw drivers, street vendors and the homeless, many of whom have to work outside in hot conditions and are at the greatest risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heatwaves becoming severe in India
The IMD said above-normal heatwave days are expected in most parts of central, east, and northwest India during this period. The maximum temperatures in central and north peninsular India are hovering in the range of 40 to 42 degrees Celsius at present.
The weather agency has predicted above-normal maximum temperatures for most parts of the country from April to June, except parts of the northwest and the peninsular regions.
The weather department said maximum temperatures are three to five notches above normal in many parts of the western Himalayan region and northeast India, West Bengal, Sikkim, Odisha, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
In 2023, India experienced its hottest February since record-keeping began in 1901. However, above-normal rainfall in March kept temperatures in check.