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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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