An unprecedented heatwave in South Asia this month (April 2022) is bringing dangerously high temperatures. Both India and Pakistan are being hit the hardest with widespread record-breaking temperatures above 105 degrees F (40 degrees C). Conditions are expected to worsen this week in those regions, where temperatures approaching 113 degrees F (45 degrees C) are possible.
The heatwave weather began in late March for northern India and Pakistan, and spread into the first weeks of April. Although heatwaves are not uncommon in this region during the pre-monsoon season from April to June, residents and meteorologists have noted that this heatwave has arrived earlier than normally happens. With no relief in sight, some observers are suggesting this heatwave pattern might become one of the longest-lasting in recent decades.
While heatwaves are common in India, especially in May and June, summer began early this year with high temperatures from March itself – average maximum temperatures in the month were the highest in 122 years. Heatwaves also began setting in during the month.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a gradual rise in maximum temperatures by 2-4C over most parts of north-western and central India this week, with “no large change thereafter.”
The effects are visible: farmers say the unexpected temperature spikes have affected their wheat harvest, a development that could potentially have global consequences given supply disruptions due to the Ukraine war. “The heat spell occurred very fast and also matured the crop at a faster pace, which shrivelled the grain size. This also resulted in a drop in yield,” said the agriculture information officer in the state of Punjab.
“Wheat prices will be driven up, if you look at what is happening in Ukraine, with many countries relying on wheat from India to compensate, the impact will be felt well beyond India,” said Harjeet Singh, an adviser with Climate Action Network International.
Summers have always been extreme in many parts of India – especially in the northern and central regions. But, many experts say, India is currently recording more intense, frequent heat waves that are also longer in duration.
Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, argues that several atmospheric factors have led to the current heatwave. But, global warming is a major factor too. “That’s the root cause for the increase in heatwaves,” he says.
Due to the weather forecasts, heatwave warnings are issued for 10 major cities in India. Some regional educational systems have shut down all schools for the next coming days.
Expect more “unprecedented” heatwaves in the coming decade if the world continues with “business-as-usual”. The problem: At a certain point, we will grow inured to the concept of “unprecedented”, and at that point, it might well be too late.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. In the Featured Photo: The heat in Indian cities is becoming increasingly unbearable. Featured Photo Credit: Flickr.com, via India Climate Dialogue.