According to a new analysis released by the UK’s Meteorological Office on Wednesday, the scorching heat in northwestern India and Pakistan over the past few weeks has probably increased 100-fold due to man-made climate change.
Using record-setting events in April and May 2010 – which will surpass 2022 – as a benchmark, Met Office analyzes how climate change is increasing the risk of such heatwaves.
In the absence of climate change, an event like the 2010 heat wave would be expected every 300 years, the analysis found. But based on the effects of heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels, researchers now expect record-breaking temperatures every three years.
“Given the extreme levels we’ve seen in recent weeks, one can expect the 2010 record to be broken this year, and we can see that human impact will actually make this phenomenon nearly 100 times greater,” said Nikos Christidis, lead researcher. Research, wrote an email.
India tries to adapt to extreme heat but pays a heavy price
The blistering temperatures this spring have set numerous records in the region. India has endured the highest temperature in March for a record 122 years. April was then the warmest April on record in Pakistan and North-West and Central India.
The temperature is also above average in May. On Sunday, New Delhi hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit (46.7 Celsius), shy of its monthly record. The Pakistani city of Jacobabad hit 123.8 degrees (51 Celsius) on Sunday and 122 degrees (50 Celsius) on Saturday.
In Pakistan’s record-setting heat eruption, a glacial lake flooded the village
Outsiders, who make up a large part of India’s workforce, are crowding in again.
For several years, 31-year-old Chandra Mohan, a construction worker in Gurgaon, near Delhi, has been doing backbreaking work outside. But the work has recently felt unbearable.
“I worked seven days a week. Now, I can only manage five days, ”Mohan said.
The heat wave has brought misery beyond the physical exertion of workers like Mohan. This means loss of income – less work is available and possible. This means higher costs – to buy cold water and drinks at work. This means that it is difficult to rest at night due to power outages at night.
“I don’t know how we’re going to survive in the coming days,” he said.
Another heat wave is expected in northern India and Pakistan on Thursday and Friday. Temperatures inside Pakistan could again hover around 122 degrees (50 Celsius), while most parts of northern India could see a maximum of at least 108 degrees (42 Celsius).
Bike-taxi driver Shiv Kumar, 25, has a hot illness. Sweating from wearing a helmet stings his eyes. At the end of each day his head itches.
“My clothes are soaked with sweat from driving all day,” Kumar said. “Now, I have a rash all over my body.”
Kumar, a resident of Noida outside Delhi, started working as a bike-taxi driver two months ago for a good salary. Now, he may return to the job market soon.
“I need to start looking for another job,” he said. “I did not realize that this task would be so difficult.”
Bimal Mishra, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar, says the heat waves of the last two months have been unprecedented in the last century or so due to their early onset, perseverance and wide-ranging effects.
As the heat spreads through the ongoing drought until May, Mishra said there could be a shortage of drinking water in some areas. “If the rains are delayed or not or come in June, this period may be longer,” he said.
India has experienced unusually long heat spells as researchers have documented an increase in the number of hot and humid days in recent decades.
“India is the fastest growing city in global urban extreme heat exposure,” Cascade Tuholske, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University, wrote in an email. “Part of the increase in exposure is due to urban population growth, but dangerously hot-humid day growth rates are alarming for many large Indian cities.”
Extreme urban heat exposure has tripled worldwide since the 1980s, the study found.
Met Office analysis found that temperatures in the region could be as hot as the 2010 record-setting event, unless heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions were stopped virtually every year by the end of the century.
Mishra, who was not involved in the analysis, said the situation was “certainly commendable” if countries failed to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels. But while greenhouse gas emissions are low, he said, most parts of the country still have to deal with more intense heat waves.
“If we limit it to 1.5 or 2 degrees, that’s not the case [of warming], We will be in a much better position, ”said Mishra, who has seen that heat waves will probably increase six-fold below 2 degrees Celsius. “Even half a degree of overheating or one degree of overheating in the future could again pose a significant risk to the heatwave in India.”
India is one of the few victims of recent extreme events due to man-made climate change.
In April, South Africa experienced the deadliest storm on record. Two days of torrential rains in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape have caused severe flooding and landslides, killing more than 400 people. Researchers from the World Wide Attribution Project, which analyzes how man-made climate change is affecting the likelihood of extreme weather events, have found that global warming doubles the likelihood of flooding and intensifies it by 4 to 8 percent.
Such extremes are expected to increase as our planet warms. A report released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Wednesday states that four key climate-change indicators set a record in 2021: concentration of greenhouse gases, sea level rise, sea temperature and ocean acidification.
The WMO further noted that the last seven years have been the warmest on record, saying that it is “very likely” that the Earth will set a new global temperature record at least once in the next five years. These records “are yet another clear indication that human activity is changing the dimensions of the planets in the land, ocean and atmosphere,” the report said.
Patel reports from Washington and Masih from New Delhi.