Human Hothouse Death Toll Climbs to 2300 in India, Monsoon Suppressed, Delayed

The fifth deadliest heatwave in the global record continues to claim lives in India.

As of earlier today 2300 souls were accounted lost due to oppressive May and early June heat preceding a delayed onset of a substantially weakened annual summer Monsoon. Temperatures across India have ranged from the middle 90s to as high as 114 degrees (Fahrenheit) over recent days with readings remaining in heatwave ranges even throughout the night.

indiaheatwave

(May 25 India Heatwave Map provided by NOAA.)

The above May 25 temperature map by NOAA displays an extreme heat pattern that has remained in place now for weeks over India, with 40 degree Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures covering a greater portion of the country. Andhra Pradesh, at the center of this hot zone, has seen the most impact with more than 1700 souls lost there as of this morning.

As with most heatwaves, the elderly, the poor, and those who work outdoors have shown the highest losses. In this heatwave, field workers, who survive on daily wages, have been particularly hard-hit. The choice for them has been a brutal one of brave the blazing heat and risk life or stay home in the shade and risk livelihood.

Monsoon Delayed, Weak

A smattering of rain showers has started to infiltrate sections of India as of today, bringing isolated relief. But, overall, the larger Indian Monsoon continues to hold off, delayed at its gates in the Bay of Bengal.

India monsoon

(Monsoon again delayed as heatwave conditions remain entrenched over India. Image source: India’s Monsoon Information Page.)

As of June 2, Monsoonal advance had only proceeded to the typical May 25 line — more than a one week delay. A cruel tardiness for poor, sweltering India.

Adding insult to an already bad climate state for India, as of this morning the Government had also downgraded the expected strength of the monsoon to 88 percent of a typical year. The 12 percent loss of water from the farm-feeding rains would increase risk of an agriculture-disrupting drought in many of India’s states. Such a drought could hit the 50% of India’s non-irrigated farms quite hard while also adding stress to water supplies feeding the irrigated facilities.

A Heatwave that was Almost Certainly Caused by Climate Change

Human-forced warming of the oceans through fossil fuel burning has almost certainly had an impact on this year’s drought and monsoon delay for India. The warming has added about 0.6 C of heat to a now strengthening El Nino over the Equatorial Pacific. In the past, only strong El Ninos provided enough atmospheric heat forcing to delay monsoons, spark powerful heatwaves, and spur droughts across India. Now, even weak to moderate events are having this effect with last year seeing a mere shift toward El Nino conditions delaying monsoonal progress and reducing rainfalls across the region.

In addition, recent studies have found that 75 percent of heatwaves are now caused by climate change globally. So, as with the Texas floods of  the past few weeks, when we are looking at instances of freakishly extreme weather, we are also looking at the growing impact of human-caused climate change.

Unfortunately, due to the delayed monsoon and extreme heat deeply entrenched throughout many regions of India, we can expect a high risk for loss of life to continue for at least the next few days as a weakened and delayed monsoon fights to gain ground. This is an instance of yet another early, easy outlier of the very extreme climate change related weather that will follow, with locked-in conditions worsening so long as we continue burning fossil fuels.

Links:

Extreme Temperatures Kill More than 2,000 in India

Anthropogenic Contribution to Heavy Rainfall and High Temperature Extremes

More than 2300 Have Now Died in India’s Heatwave

NOAA

India’s Monsoon Information Page

Government Downgrades Monsoon Forecast, Stokes Drought Fears

Rains Failing Over India

Leave a comment

37 Comments

  1. climatehawk1

     /  June 2, 2015

    Thanks, tweet scheduled.

    Reply
  2. Greg

     /  June 2, 2015

    Thank you Robert. I had been concerned about the Monsoon impact. The suffering of those on the streets is unfathomable.

    “I have worked as a medical officer in this district for 40 years and I have never seen anything like this, with so many people arriving already dead.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/hospitals-overwhelmed-as-india-heatwave-deaths-over-1700/6505302

    Reply
    • If this was a disease outbreak, it would be a leader on the nightly news. It’s in the news. But definitely buried.

      Reply
      • JG Miller

         /  June 2, 2015

        If it were happening in the US it would also be prominently in US news. I believe it is really true that the fire won’t be lit here until mass human death from the climate is visited upon North America.

        Reply
      • Greg

         /  June 2, 2015

        Yes, media is terrible at defining context and giving perspective. Ironically, it is estimated that close to 4000 workers, many from India, will die in the dangerous heat conditions of construction of the stadiums as a result of the corrupt FIFA approved Qatar World Cup. Not a place anyone should be athletically competing in the middle of the summer.

        Reply
    • Jeremy

       /  June 2, 2015

      As horrible as these deaths are, in an Indian context with 238,000 road accident deaths in 2013, it is a mere pinprick, whereas in a historical context famine could cause millions of deaths. The hope is that India is prepared for harvest failure and the World for possible multiple harvest failures.

      Reply
      • Mblanc

         /  June 3, 2015

        Good context, although I’m sure it is a horrible thing to live through.

        Leaving aside the significant and distressing, but not huge, number of deaths (given the size of the population), I wonder about the amount of non-fatal suffering caused. I guess that for every death there are scores of people who are physically suffering through this heatwave.

        And the economy must suffering too, though India’s recent growth figures are strong.. Poverty stricken people tend to have little in the way of financial resilience, to get them through difficult periods

        Reply
      • Jeremy

         /  June 3, 2015

        Having been on holiday in France & Italy in a tent during the 2003 heatwave I can confirm how miserable it can be, but we had access to cool drinks, ice cream, swimming pools and shade, so in no way can it be really comparable. My abiding memory is the air conditioned supermarket in Figline Valdarno where the whole Italian population seemed to congregrate with a musical babble of gossip to escape the heat (air conditioning is relatively rare in Italy).

        In Europe in 2003 it was the old that suffered the most but in India I expect those who have no choice but to work outdoors will also suffer badly. It is usually those with the least resource or wherewithal who suffer the most.

        Reply
  3. Greg

     /  June 2, 2015

    Just a side note regarding the What can/are we doing about this little thing we are focused on here before it becomes impossible. This week a consortium is organizing some big players to take on coal and FF in a significant way:

    “If we really care about the future of civilization, this is quite a big call for action,”

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27635-new-apollo-programme-wants-moonshot-budget-to-boost-renewables.html#.VW3ghmzbJjo

    Reply
    • Good, very good!

      Reply
      • Greg

         /  June 2, 2015

        Yes, and I noted in an interview with the VP of regulatory affairs for Tesla this week two things. First, the new gigafactory will begin production next Spring! and, casually mentioned, they intend to build hundreds of Gigafactories designed specifically to store the world’s power to enable a zero-carbon energy civilization. I take their intentions very seriously. I fully expect Musk is going to get pulled from his engineering endeavors into leadership on the world-stage on the Apollo-like programs we will be seeing in a few short years. It seems there are two huge stories unfolding, the climate state shift you are covering here and are giving such great perspective on and the not-far-behind story of the dramatic shift as humanity fully responds. I don’t see that necessarily as an optimist, simply that it is inevitable and seems near a tipping point. Humanity’s response may, as yet, be bitterly disappointing or not. Stay tuned.

        Reply
      • Greg, the 2016 US elections will give us a clue, whether or not we become full-bore pseudo-conservative or not.

        Reply
  4. Greg

     /  June 2, 2015

    Fossil Fuels heating of the atmosphere quantified and tharz she blows:

    “the global and time-integrated radiative forcing from burning a fossil fuel exceeds the heat released upon combustion within 2 months. Over the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the cumulative CO2-radiative forcing exceeds the amount of energy released upon combustion by a factor >100,000.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GL063514/full

    Reply
  5. Greg

     /  June 2, 2015

    The PR campaign in response? “We are the original suncatchers”

    Reply
  6. James Hawley

     /  June 2, 2015

    I really like the reporting on your blog. Any idea what the wet bulb temp is in the regions suffering the highest deaths?

    Reply
  7. Those people in India are really suffering!
    These climate casualties keep mounting up.
    I, for one, would surely be among the dead.
    Mix heat with polluted air — the human body can’t take it.
    It never can, and never will.

    Keep up the posting, Robert.

    Reply
    • From the sat shot of India today — steely gray tint to the otherwise cloud free skies. Very bad combo for the folks who have to live and work in that stuff.

      Reply
  8. Reblogged this on jpratt27.

    Reply
  9. 2300 souls. That’s terrible!

    And it’ll only get worse, I’m afraid.😦

    Reply
  10. milendia

     /  June 3, 2015

    mblanc says: Leaving aside the significant and distressing, but not huge, number of deaths (given the size of the population), I wonder about the amount of non-fatal suffering caused.

    The population who suffers from severe hyperthermia without dying will not survive one year.
    http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/1998/19980801-heatstroke-aim.html

    Reply
  11. Such a sad and tragic situation. When one person contracts Ebola in the U.S. it’s wall to wall, round the clock coverage on the news. Everyone insisting something needs to be done. But when thousands drop dead from a heat wave that will become much more common in the very near future, it only gets a quick mention at the end of a news broadcast. That and the fact that it’s India, and most Americans can’t find India on a map, much less care about the residents as fellow human beings. As a carpenter who frames a lot of new homes, and works outside year round, I can relate to those who have to endure the heat while performing back-breaking work. Usually when it gets up around 100 (it’s almost always humid here in CT when we have those temps) we’ll quit early or even take a day off on the worst days. I can’t imagine having to make a decision to either work and possibly die from heat stroke, or go hungry and not have the meager means for the basic necessities for me and my family. I really feel for all those trapped in poverty and facing similar situations.

    Reply
  12. RobB

     /  June 8, 2015

    Seeing that a heatwave like that is able to stall the advance of the Indian monsoon for at least 10 days, I wonder: Would an even stronger heatwave be able to block the access of the monsoon to Northern India or most of the subcontinent?

    Reply
    • If you end up with a very powerful heat dome high over India, yes, it’s possible. Something to look at as warming near the equator intensifies.

      Reply
      • RobB

         /  June 9, 2015

        Thank you for the reply, Robert! Never thought about that before reading this article, but with that possibility, phase 2 climate change might cause even more horrible events in India than I previously thought. Would be really interesting to have a look at the geopolitical research done by intelligence agencies regarding the possible consequences of India breaking under climate stress (although I would guess that Pakistan will collapse even sooner).

        Reply
  1. Glacial Outburst Flood — Human Hothouse Displaces Hundreds in Tajikistan | robertscribbler
  2. Killing Heat — It Felt Like 165 Degrees in Iran Today | robertscribbler
  3. Worst Flood in 200 Years — 1.2 Million People Displaced in India | robertscribbler
  4. Japan in Hot Water — Longest Heatwave on Record for Tokyo, Tens of Thousands Hospitalized | robertscribbler
  5. Hothouse Mass Casualties Strike Egypt, Heatwave Continues to Hospitalize Thousands in Japan | robertscribbler
  6. Dangerous Heat Sets Sights on Southern United States | robertscribbler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: