Extreme Heatwave in India,Hottest Summer Ever 2024

The summer of 2024 in India has been one of the most intense and extreme heatwaves in recent history, with temperatures soaring to unprecedented levels. This extreme heatwave has had severe consequences for the country’s population, agriculture, and infrastructure.Extreme Heatwave in India,Hottest Summer Ever 2024

Causes of Extreme Heatwave

Extreme Heatwave in India,Hottest Summer Ever 2024

The extreme heatwave in India during 2024 can be attributed to a combination of factors, including:

  1. Global warming: The long-term trend of global warming has led to an increase in average temperatures, making heatwaves more frequent and intense.
  2. Urbanization: Rapid urbanization in India has led to the creation of urban heat islands, where temperatures are significantly higher than in surrounding rural areas.
  3. Land use changes: Deforestation, overgrazing, and other land use changes have contributed to the loss of natural cooling mechanisms, exacerbating the effects of heatwaves.
  4. Climate variability: Natural climate variability, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), can also contribute to extreme heatwaves in India.

Severe consequences for the country

  1. Health impacts: The intense heat has led to a significant increase in heat-related illnesses and fatalities, particularly among vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
  2. Agricultural losses: The extreme heat has had a devastating impact on India’s agriculture sector, with crop yields significantly reduced and livestock suffering from heat stress.
  3. Infrastructure damage: The intense heat has caused damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and buildings, leading to significant repair costs.
  4. Power outages: The increased demand for electricity to power air conditioning and cooling systems has led to power outages in some areas, further exacerbating the effects of the heatwave.

Weather patterns of India

Weather patterns of India

India has a diverse climate, which can be broadly divided into four main regions: the northern Himalayan region, the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the southern peninsula, and the coastal regions.

The northern Himalayan region has a subarctic climate with cold winters and mild summers. The Indo-Gangetic Plain experiences hot summers, cool winters, and a monsoon season with heavy rains from June to September. The southern peninsula has a tropical humid and dry climate with hot and humid weather throughout the year and two monsoon seasons. The coastal regions have a tropical maritime climate with high humidity and frequent rainfall.

India has an average temperature of 31.5 °C per year and over 2100 hours of sunshine. The country has six main climatic subtypes and diverse microclimates due to its varied topography.

The hottest temperature ever recorded in India was 49.5 °C in Bikaner in May 2016, and the coldest temperature was -2.6 °C in Amritsar in January 2005. The most precipitation ever recorded in a month was 264.7 mm per day in Cherrapunji in July 1974.

In 2023, December was the wettest in 26 years, August was the warmest in 14 years, and March had the most rainy days in 15 years. The long-term development of temperatures in India has increased slightly by about 0.5 °C over the past 34 years.

El Niño-Southern Oscillation

  El Niño-Southern Oscillation

El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has a significant impact on weather patterns in India. El Niño, the warm phase of ENSO, brings hot and dry conditions to India, leading to droughts and deficient rainfall. On the other hand, La Niña, the cool phase of ENSO, brings increased rainfall and cooler temperatures, potentially offering relief to regions parched by El Niño.

In 2023, a strong El Niño event led to a scorching summer and the driest August in 120 years, with a 6% deficit in overall monsoon rainfall. At least 25% of the country was under drought until December, while more than 60% of India saw deficient, highly deficient, or no rainfall in January.

However, by December 2023, El Niño had peaked and was losing steam, and by February 2024, it was official – the curtain was closing on its grand performance. As El Niño exits, speculation mounts about La Niña’s potential entrance, which could bring much-needed downpours, replenishing water reserves and boosting crop yields.

The typical duration and frequency of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)?

The typical duration and frequency of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events are as follows:

Duration: ENSO events typically last between 9-12 months, but can sometimes persist for years.
Frequency: ENSO events occur every 2-7 years on average.

Note that ENSO events include both El Niño and La Niña events, which are opposite phases of the same climate pattern.

La Niña

La Niña 

La Niña is a naturally occurring phenomenon characterized by cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern regions of the Pacific Ocean. It is the opposite of El Niño and significantly affects Earth’s weather patterns. La Niña events typically last between nine to 12 months, but can sometimes persist for years.

During La Niña, the Pacific jet stream moves northward from its normal position, leading to dry conditions in the southern United States and increased rainfall and flooding in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. La Niña can also contribute to the heightened intensity of the hurricane season.

In India, the presence of La Niña can result in heightened rainfall and a significantly stronger monsoon season. Summers in the UK tend to be wetter during La Niña years.

La Niña has the opposite effect of El Niño on marine ecosystems. The increased upwelling during La Niña brings a flurry of nutrients from the depth, benefiting marine populations. The colder waters off the Pacific coast also attract more cold-water species such as squid and salmon to the Californian coast.

La Niña events typically occur every 2-7 years, with the last La Niña event occurring during the winter of 2021-2022.

The typical duration and frequency of La Niña events?

La Niña events typically last between nine to 12 months, but can sometimes persist for years. They usually occur every 2-7 years, with the last La Niña event occurring during the winter of 2021-2022.

What is Heat Index?

What is Heat Index?

The heat index is an index that combines air temperature and relative humidity to give a human-perceived equivalent temperature, as how hot it would feel if the humidity were some other value in the shade. It is meant to describe experienced temperatures in the shade, but it does not take into account heating from direct sunlight, physical activity, or cooling from wind. The heat index is used in weather forecasts and warnings to describe how hot it feels to people, and it can help determine the risk of heat-related illness. Different individuals perceive heat differently due to body shape, metabolism, level of hydration, pregnancy, or other physical conditions. The heat index was developed in 1979 by Robert G. Steadman.

What is The Urban Island Effect?

What is The Urban Island Effect?

The Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect is a phenomenon that occurs when urban areas experience higher temperatures than their surrounding rural areas due to the concentration of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure that absorb and retain heat. This effect can increase energy costs, air pollution levels, and the risk of heat-related illness and mortality. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the UHI effect, leading to more frequent and severe heat waves. To mitigate the UHI effect, strategies such as planting trees and other vegetation, building green roofs, and implementing green infrastructure improvements can be implemented. These strategies can help reduce heat-related stress on communities and provide additional benefits such as improved air quality and stormwater management.

Prevention of The Urban Island Effect

Trees play a crucial role in preventing the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. They help cool the environment by providing shade and cooling through evaporation and transpiration, also known as evapotranspiration. This process involves trees absorbing water through their roots and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves, which cools the surroundings.

Trees are most effective in mitigating the UHI effect when planted in strategic locations around buildings or to shade pavement in parking lots and on streets. For example, planting deciduous trees or vines to the west of a building can be particularly effective in cooling it, especially if they shade windows and part of the building’s roof.

The benefits of using trees and vegetation to reduce the UHI effect include:

  1. Reduced energy use: Trees and vegetation that directly shade buildings decrease demand for air conditioning.
  2. Improved air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions: By reducing energy demand, trees and vegetation decrease the production of associated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. They also remove air pollutants and store and sequester carbon dioxide.
  3. Enhanced stormwater management and water quality: Vegetation reduces runoff and improves water quality by absorbing and filtering rainwater.
  4. Reduced pavement maintenance: Tree shade can slow deterioration of street pavement, decreasing the amount of maintenance needed.
  5. Improved quality of life: Trees and vegetation provide aesthetic value, habitat for many species, and can reduce noise.

The primary costs associated with planting and maintaining trees or other vegetation include purchasing materials, initial planting, and ongoing maintenance activities such as pruning, pest and disease control, and irrigation. However, the benefits of urban forestry can vary considerably by community and tree species, and they are almost always higher than the costs.

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