Friday, July 19, 2019

Worsening Deadly Heatwaves in India

One of India's longest and most intense heatwaves has killed at least one hundred people and on July 17th at least 100 more died due to monsoon flooding and mudslides. The pre-monsoon heatwave lasted for more than a month and it was compounded by severe drought that has caused major water shortages. At its worst temperatures exceeded 50°C.

In April, central and northwestern India were suffering from a heatwave that was 6°C above the average. At the beginning of June Delhi hit temperatures of 48°C, the highest temperature ever recorded in that city for that month. The temperatures in Churu, set a new Indian record as they climbed above 50°C and helped to precipitate water shortages. The 9 million residents in the city of Chennai also faced water shortages. Some villages went without water for days. Approximately 40 percent of India has endured drought conditions in 2019.

Droughts are becoming more frequent and they are commonly being followed by sudden storms and floods. There have been radical changes to rainfall patterns in India over the course of the last ten years.

The situation in India is dire and getting worse. This has prompted questions about whether some parts of India will soon be incapable of supporting life.

An CNN article by Shekhar Chandra, a Ph.D. Candidate in Public Policy, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) suggests that the worsening heat will cause a humanitarian crisis as "large parts of the country potentially become too hot to be inhabitable".

Even if we do what we must to reduce emissions and minimize the impact of global warming, parts of India may still be uninhabitable as a certain amount of warming is baked into the system.

"Experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say that even if the world succeeds in cutting carbon emissions, limiting the predicted rise in average global temperatures, parts of India will become so hot they will test the limits of human survivability," Chandra said.

The rate at which warming is increasing in India is troubling. Chandra reports that in 2010 there were 21 official heatwaves across India, in 2018 there were 484. This represents a 23 fold increase in less than a decade.

According to AK Sahai and Sushmita Joseph, of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, the situation is destined to get worse as heatwaves are expected to engulf the whole of India.

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