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18th April 2023 (6 Topics)

Dealing with extreme heat

Context:

Around 350 million Indians were exposed to strong heat stress between April and May 2022.

Raising Temperatures

  • Rising & Rising: Between 1990 and 2019, summer temperatures on average rose by 0.5-0.9°C across districts in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. About 54% of India’s districts have also seen a similar rise in winter temperatures.
  • Summer temperature: Between 2021 and 2050, it is expected that the maximum temperature will rise by 2-3.5°C in 100 districts and by 1.5– 2°C in around 455 districts.
  • Winter temperature: Similarly, winter temperatures will rise between 1°C and 1.5°C in around 485 districts. Such a sharp rise in urban temperatures is rare.

Impact

  • Weather variability: More recently, northern India has seen significant variability in the weather. Cold weather in January was followed by a heat wave in February and early March, and hailstorm and heavy rain in the past few weeks.
  • Impact on agriculture: Weather variability has destroyed the majority of the cumin crop in Rajasthan. From agricultural crop losses, it is a short step towards drought and higher mortality.
  • Inviable cities: A rise in temperatures directly impacts labour productivity. For labourers doing heavy work, heat exposure leads to a loss of 162 hours per year, as per one study. 
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