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Duration of Indian Hot Season Nearly Doubles as Crushing Drought and Heat Expand Across the Subcontinent

“It is a drought we have not seen in 110 years. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and it is due to global climate change.” — S. Thirunavukkarasu, a retired Tamil Nadu Public Works official.

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For India, the hot-season-like temperatures began in late February — two months earlier than usual. After a brief respite, they fired again in March, bringing April-like temperatures a month too soon. The hot season for this region typically begins in mid-April and extends through mid-June. In 2017, hot-season conditions sparked in late February. Today, life-threatening temperatures of between 100 and 115 F blanket much of this vast, densely populated land.

The early onset of heat comes after years of expanding drought, warming temperatures, melting glaciers and drying rivers, bringing with it a deepening hardship. Farmers across the country report a sense of deepening desperation as cries for help in the form of nationwide protests break out. Meanwhile, those working outdoors increasingly suffer from heat- and dehydration-related kidney failure. This year, conditions that threaten heat injury and loss of life have spurred schools across the country to close early.

(GFS model runs indicate temperatures in excess of 47 C or 115 F over parts of India tomorrow, April 22nd. Meanwhile, forecasters predict that 50 C or 122 F readings are possible in the coming days and weeks. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

In two southern provinces, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the situation is one of extreme drought. In Kerala, water stress has now reached an intensity not seen in all of the past 115 years. Tamil Nadu’s own drought crisis is the worst in 110 years. And in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, the situation is nearly as calamitous (see map of India’s provinces here).

Retired Tamil Nadu public works official S. Thirunavukkarasu recently noted:

“It is a drought we have not seen in 110 years. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and it is due to global climate change. We may see a repeat of 2015 [floods] next year or the rains may fail again like they did in 2016. We cannot figure the weather out. But we need to ensure that we are prepared.”

Throughout the region and over other parts of India, residents are relying on ground water or water supply trucks as lakes and rivers run dry. Ground water supplies are being drawn down at an alarming rate. Water depths that should comfortably sit at 2-3 meters underground have been driven back to 8-15 meters or more. In some locations, wells are being driven as deep as 80 to 90 meters in search of water.

(Though southern India and Sri Lanka are hardest hit, long-term drought is impacting nearly all of India. Image source: NOAA.)

It’s a water crisis that is wide-ranging — impacting both rural locales and population centers like Delhi. Public officials are being forced to divert water from construction and other industries in order to ensure that residents receive access to life-giving supplies.

As with last year, reports are trickling in that tens of millions of people across India are experiencing water stress. Two years of delayed monsoons and severe hot seasons have already left the country reeling. This year’s extended hot season adds insult to injury. And with Pacific Ocean surface temperatures in the Equatorial region tracking above average for this time of year, it is again uncertain that present assurances of a ‘normal monsoon season’ will bear out.

Cyclical droughts and heatwaves are normal for India. What is not normal is the present situation of continuously worsening conditions. These ever-intensifying droughts and heatwaves are being driven by a global warming primarily brought on by fossil fuel burning. And, in the end, relief for India will only come when the warming ceases.

Links:

Five States Face Drought Made Worse by Early Onset of Summer

NOAA

Earth Nullschool

One-Third of Indian Population Stares at Drought This Summer

Delhi on the Verge of Groundwater Crisis

Capital City Reels Under Severe Water Shortage

Heatwave Across North, Central and Western India

The Indian Hot Season Began Two Months Early This Year

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

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