Tuesday, June 2, 2015

India's Heat Wave Offers a Glimpse into the Future

More than 2,300 people have died during the recent heat wave in India where temperatures in parts of the country have reached almost 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). According to some reports the actual number of dead attributable to the heat wave is actually much higher. This is one of the worst heat wave related death tolls in recent memory. Andhra Pradesh on India’s southeastern coast was the worst affected states reporting over 1,700 fatalities while the neighboring state of Telangana has confirmed almost 600 heat related deaths.

On Tuesday morning temperatures in the Indian capital of New Delhi fell almost ten degrees to around 95.9°F (35.5°C). Last week temperatures in the city reached a high of 113.9°F (45.5°C). At the height of the heat wave New Delhi recorded temperatures exceeding 121°F (or almost 50°C) and actually melted roads.

While it is difficult to determine whether the heat wave in India is attributable to global warming we can say with certainty that heat waves are on the increase and this is consistent with climate models.

According to the India Meteorological Department over the past half century, temperatures exceeding the average by 5 or 6°C have increased by 33 percent.

India is not the only country that can expect an increase in heat waves going forward. According to an April 2015 study, “The heat waves are projected to be more intense, have longer durations and occur at a higher frequency and earlier in the year.”

Although scattered rain heralding the start of monsoon cooling has begun in parts of India, it will be a few more weeks before they make their way to the drier northern parts of the country.

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