Published On: Mon, Jul 20th, 2015

India’s Brutal Heat Wave: A Future Global Crisis?

May is typically a sweltering inferno for the people who reside in India. However, last month was exceptionally hot with temperatures exceeding the 113 Fahrenheit mark. In addition to roads melting in New Delhi, the severe heat wave was to blame for 2,500 people perishing. With temperatures reaching 97 degrees in the mountainous regions, is a global crisis far behind?

Developing El Niño

Despite the onset of monsoon season in India, the latest temperatures are causing drought issues to occur throughout the region. Residents of California know the importance of saving water during drought. However, with the current heat related conditions and deaths plaguing India, welcoming rains may lead to below-normal rainfall predictions.

The monsoon season has started approximately four days later than normal. While not all El Niño’s are a sign of an impending drought, all eyes will be on the Indian Ocean’s Dipole as it can play a key role in the amount of rain the area will receive.

The Effects of Heat in India

Health warnings such as dehydration and heat stroke can escalate, despite the endless warnings to the public. While cooling systems can help alleviate any discomfort, not everyone has access to such luxuries. Heat at such heightened levels is inescapable, with the elderly, infants, toddlers and those who work outside most vulnerable. The thermoregulatory system in the human body has its limits.

While acclimatization can offer so much in the way of protection, avoiding the sun and any form of exertion can be crucial to a person’s survival. It’s also important to properly hydrate and rest in a cool environment. When heat lingers for an extended period of time, serious challenges can arise such as death.

earth fireball destruction photo/ Bela Geletneky aka photoshopper24 via pixabay.com

earth fireball destruction photo/ Bela Geletneky aka photoshopper24 via pixabay.com

Number of Residents at Risk

India is home to approximately 1.3 billion residents. That’s nearly one sixth of the globes population. India also adds more residents than any other nation across the world each year. Individuals in Delhi are reeling from the effects of this ferocious heat wave. As the second largest city and home to approximately ten million residents, electric power to the area is failing fast as people run their air-condition units to keep cool. Without power, the people in the India are facing new problems such as food spoiling and outbreaks of food poisoning.

Is Climate Change Behind the Extreme Heat?

Scientists haven’t had the chance to analyze this recent heatwave in India yet. However, other resources have calculated the effects of climate change and extreme heat. With the escalating rise of greenhouse gas emissions, extreme events such as this are expected to increase. While heavy rainfall events are rising in frequency, the low to medium rainfall periods are also decreasing.

The Economic Costs for Extreme Weather Events

Economic costs can wreak havoc with the food crops of heat ravaged regions. If the areas experience excessive rain or a lack of water, crops widely grown can take a major hit, especially when the Indian government’s goal was to be self-sufficient in food production. Combine this with a rapidly growing population and extreme weather conditions, and your food yield can be significantly reduced.

Hope for a Brighter Future

It’s difficult to imagine this severe type of heat, especially while sitting in an air-conditioned room. However, the latest map data shows just how badly India has suffered. Because of the high relative humidity in India, the region suffered more than the countries nearby. The human body relies on sweat to cool down. However, if the air is just as saturated with moisture, the water can’t evaporate properly.

While the heat wave seems to have abated for the time being, the future outlook appears to be looking hotter. That’s why it’s important for humans to find environmentally-friendly ways to run their vehicles, light up the city and heat and cool their dwellings.

Guest Author: Paul Smith

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