The Indian Hot Season Began Two Months Early This Year — And the Worst is Yet to Come

Simulations indicate an all-round warming, associated with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, over the Indian subcontinent… — Climate Change and India

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In India, it was still February. The hot season was supposed to begin two months later in April. But temperatures in some coastal provinces had already rocketed to above 100 degrees F (38 C).

Late February temperatures for Konkan hit as high as 104 F (40 C) even as Mumbai and Ratnagiri hit 100 F (38 C).

According to Indian meteorological sources, there are no weather records of temperatures hitting such high marks so fast at any time in at least the past 20 years. Temperatures in late February and March for this region hit a range that is more typical of the height of the hot season from April to May. And when one considers the fact that India has experienced extreme heat and drought for at least the past two years running, the present context is notably disturbing.

(For India, a heatwave that came two months early has already reached an extreme intensity. Yesterday, most of the country saw temperatures above 104 F [40 C] with some locations hitting as high as 113 F [45 C]. Over the coming weeks, this heat is likely to become even more intense. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

If temperatures started out hot, they’ve only grown hotter. By late March, Nagpur had hit as high as 109 F (43 C ) on Tuesday of last week — its thirteenth straight day of highs above 104 F (40 C). Last week New Dehli saw the end of an 8 day streak of 100 F (38 C) + readings. And places like Bhira were already imposing noon curfews to protect residents from the heat. By April 5, most of the country was experiencing above 100 F (38 C) readings (see above graphic).

Worst Still To Come

Despite precautions to prevent death and injury that began as early as March 8, heat mortality is already a problem. As of March 30th, two deaths had already been reported. And though the mortality is now no-where near the tragedies of past years as 2,000 souls were lost to heat during 2015 and 700 were lost during 2016, the early appearance of killing heat in 2017 does not bode well.

India Heatwave

(Predicted temperature anomalies for April through June of 2017 shows that a severe heatwave is on the way. Image source: Hindustan Times.)

According to meteorological reports, this early heat has set the stage for very extreme conditions from June through April:

The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) seasonal forecast shows the worst is yet to come, as vast swathes of the country are set to reel under scorching heat from April to June before the monsoon arrives…The forecast is a reflection of the searing heat in most parts of India, including the national capital, since March. New Delhi endured its hottest March in seven years this season, and the mercury is refusing to relent.

As with recent years, and with El Nino emerging in the Equatorial Pacific, there is also now some risk that the Indian Monsoon will again be delayed. So we could end up with a situation where the hot season starts early, becomes very intense in April-June, and ends late.

Conditions in Context

With the Earth now 1.1 to 1.2 C warmer than 1880s values, the climate of India has already changed. Glaciers and snowpacks in the Himalayas are less extensive. Heatwaves and droughts are more intense. And the summer monsoon is often delayed.

(Present extreme heat, drought, and lengthening of the hot season is consistent with the expected impacts of human forced climate change to India. The above graphic lists additional expected impacts for the state. Image source: Climate Change and India.)

Almost every year now, there is news of crippling heat and drought. By late April of 2016, the combination of extreme heat and drought generated severe water stress for 330 million people. This year, the progression of extreme heat and drought has occurred far earlier than normal. And these severe conditions related to human-forced climate change set a very hot and grim stage for India during 2017. As a result, the risk of heat mortality, water stress, crop damage and other heatwave and drought related impacts is very high for India as we enter the months of April and May — when conditions tend to be at their hottest.

Unfortunately, since so much carbon has already been emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere from fossil fuel burning, droughts and heatwaves are likely to continue to become more and more intense for India over at least the next two decades. And the longer large volumes of carbon continue to hit the atmosphere, the worse and worse the situation for India becomes.

(UPDATED)

Links:

Early Heat Grips India

India Heatwave Turns Deadly

India and Climate Change

Earth Nullschool

Hat tip to Ryan in New England

Hat tip to Spike

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25 Comments

  1. Spike

     /  April 5, 2017

    “The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) seasonal forecast shows the worst is yet to come, as vast swathes of the country are set to reel under scorching heat from April to June before the monsoon arrives”

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/worst-of-heatwave-yet-to-come-be-prepared-for-scorching-heat-from-april-to-june/story-uNRZtGWWWw6m2HTV9aO8sL.html

    Reply
  2. OT, but a link to finding articles back of paywalls for free.
    Unpaywall finds free versions of paywalled papers.
    http://www.nature.com/news/unpaywall-finds-free-versions-of-paywalled-papers-1.21765

    Reply
  3. Suzanne

     /  April 5, 2017

    This caught my eye the other day….Wild king cobra drinking from water bottle amid drought in India…
    http://abc7news.com/pets/wild-cobra-politely-drinks-from-water-bottle/1826289/

    I don’t even know how to feel when I see something like this story…except it feels more and more like civilization is falling into an Alice In Wonderland kind of reality.

    Reply
  4. Again, off topic but several interesting articles reported today. Please delete them as you see fit.
    1. On the threat of fracking wells to groundwater.
    Potentially explosive methane gas mobile in groundwater, poses safety risk: U of G study
    Methane that leaks into atmosphere a powerful greenhouse gas.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170405101856.htm
    2. Thin Arctic sea ice allowing blooms of phytoplankton the could change the entire food web.
    Solving the mystery of the Arctic’s green ice. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170329150201.htm

    Reply
  5. Sobering. This is a very big canary falling over in the world’s cage.

    Reply
  6. And exciting potential adaptations to climate change too numerous to link. Again please delete if too much:
    1. A replacement for rapeseed vegetable oil.
    Mustard seeds without mustard flavor. New robust oilseed crop can resist global warming. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170328092443.htm
    2. Water
    a. Graphene sieve turns seawater into drinking water. (Science Daily)
    b. Biological Filtration: The Future Of Drinking Water Treatment? (from Water Online)
    3. Ridding the oceans of plastics by turning the waste into valuable fuel. (Science Daily).
    Even to the point of small reactors on sailboats.

    Reply
  7. coloradobob

     /  April 5, 2017

    Satellite images of Peru floods show devastation

    A series of devastating floods in Peru have left 100 dead and tens of thousands homeless since the start of the year.
    Entire roads and bridges have been swept away, towns have been engulfed and farmland has been turned to muddy swamp.
    It has led to more than 800 towns and cities declaring states of emergency, and brought about a rise in the price of food. Police have been deployed to keep law and order in flood-ravaged areas.
    Now, this series of satellite images – collected by the Amazon Monitoring Project (MAAP), involving the conservation groups ACA and ACCA Peru – show how the rising water changed the landscape in the north-west of the country between January and March.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39506479

    Reply
  8. Thanks for your info, Robert, as usual. And thanks to the many comments that contain valuable information.

    I wonder constantly if the speed of climate change is going to outstrip all our best efforts to leave fossil fuels and adapt fast enough what has already changed. I have wondered this for 2 to 3 years now. We are in for a roaster this summer in northern hemisphere.

    Thanks to you all and peace, Sheri

    Reply
    • That was one of my thoughts, too. An explosion of potential, but not in time.

      Reply
    • 1.5 to 2 C warming is going to look and feel very bad regardless of the response. It’s just a question of whether or not we can scale up an energy transition and other measures to avoid worse.

      Reply
  9. Prof. Eric Rignot- Future sea-level rise from warming ice sheets

    Contains latest GRACE data
    Concludes SLR by 2100 >1m VERY LIKELY
    Committed SLR of 1.5-2C warming is 6-9m

    Reply
    • Hilary

       /  April 5, 2017

      Excellent lecture, even I could follow his clear explanations!

      Reply
  10. Suzanne

     /  April 5, 2017

    Carbon footprint of Canada’s Oil Sands is Larger than Thought:
    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04042017/tar-sands-greenhouse-gas-emissions-climate-change-keystone-xl-pipeline-donald-trump-enbridge

    New climate change evidence from recent government studies could affect the coming legal fight over President Trump’s revived permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

    Reply
  11. Shawn Redmond

     /  April 5, 2017

    The toll of pollution: How many lives vs. how much profit?

    Frequently lost in the arguments over financial costs and benefits when it comes to pollution is the cost to human health. Not only illness and respiratory problems but premature death. To put it bluntly: How many human lives should we exchange for corporate profit?

    Two new studies by the World Health Organization should force us to confront these issues head on. This is no small matter — the two WHO studies estimate that polluted environments cause 1.7 million children age five or younger to die per year.

    https://systemicdisorder.wordpress.com

    Reply
  12. climatehawk1

     /  April 5, 2017

    Tweet scheduled. I see McKibben has already tweeted. 🙂

    Reply
  13. Hilary

     /  April 5, 2017

    Ex tropical cyclone Debbie is still causing huge & widespread problems here in NZ:
    Live: Township evacuated as ex-tropical cyclone Debbie sweeps NZ
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/91174483/live-cyclone-debbie-remnants-hit-nz
    Edgecombe has about 600 houses, evactuation is ongoing & seems to be working well, after river broke through their stopbank. ‘A one in 500 year event! ???’

    Reply
  14. Hi Robert, I hear you that one of the main drivers of this phenomenon in climate change – but I am just wondering if El Nino typically plays a role in causing heat waves and droughts in India too? I am just asking because these temperatures seem extremely high – sort of like what we saw in the Arctic this winter with temperatures 30 F above normal, but I always thought climate change was expected to bring the most severe temperature increases to the Arctic first before the lower latitudes. Thanks.

    Reply
    • India is particularly vulnerable to climate change due to a number of factors. And though the Arctic is warming at 2 to 3 times faster than the rest of the globe, you still have an average decadal rate of warming of 0.18 C globally. Parts of India, like the Himalayas are also warming faster than the global average.

      El Nino does play a role. However, you wouldn’t generally expect El Nino to cause the extent of earlier warming, as we saw this year. El Nino impacts monsoonal progression to a greater degree — adding to the risk of monsoon delay.

      Also, considering the fact that the upcoming El Nino is expected to be a weak one and that it is not fully developed, the larger factor that is likely presently at play is climate change.

      Reply
    • Of course, weather can be quite variable. But the present year fits into a three year rend of extreme drought and extreme warmth for India. This year’s early warming is even more of an outlier than previous years. And with the Earth at 1.2 C hotter than 1880s, we’d expect these kinds of impacts to become more visible for India.

      Reply
  15. Thank you, your two responses certainly put things into perspective. It’s a bit scary seeing such extreme conditions created by only 1.2 C of climate change, whereas we’re on our way to maybe 3 C of warming. I think for me it underscores the need to show Americans (who have now become the laggards in addressing the issue) that climate change is already here and we need to act now!

    Reply
    • Indeed, sir. Thank you for your very cogent thoughts. I think that we certainly need to unify in a confederate effort to remove fossil fuel burning and transition to clean energy and more efficient energy use as soon as possible. The faster the better.

      Reply
  1. Duration of Indian Hot Season Nearly Doubles as Crushing Drought and Heat Expands Across the Subcontinent | robertscribbler

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