Searing changes: On heatwaves predicted by the Met Office

Source: The post is based on the article “Searing changes: On heatwaves predicted by the Met Office” published in The Hindu on 2nd March 2023.

Syllabus: GS-3: Disaster Management.

Relevance: About the impact of heat waves.

News: February was generally considered as a ‘spring’ and a ‘winter month’ by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and usually posts temperatures in the low 20s. But recently, the IMD has said that February 2023 was the warmest February since 1901 with the average maximum temperature at nearly 29.54°C. The IMD has also said that these trends are likely to spill over into summer.

What is a heat wave, and what are its implications?

Read here: Winter Heatwaves – Explained, pointwise

About the present status of heatwaves in India

There has been a gradual rise in the temperature along with that the minimum temperatures are also scaling new heights. Most of northeast, eastern, central and northwest India is expected to post “above normal” temperatures.

Heatwaves during March-May are likely over most parts of India, except for the north-east, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and coastal Karnataka.

What are the impacts of heat waves in India?

Impact on humans: A Lancet study reported a 55% rise in deaths due to extreme heat and that excessive heat also led to a loss of 167.2 billion potential labour hours among Indians in 2021.

Impact on the wheat yields: India produced 106.84 million tonnes of wheat in the 2021-22 crop season, less than the 109.59 million tonnes in the 2020-21 season. This is due to the hotter-than-usual March that impacted the crop during its growth phase.

What are the challenges in predicting the impact of heat waves this year?

This is because, a) Only after March, the global forecast models can be able to analyse sea-surface conditions and can credibly extrapolate, b) The interplay between local weather and climate is complex, and c) The science continues to be uncertain about the impact of climate change on rising heatwave intensities. 

What should be done to reduce the impact of heat waves in India?

a) Public health systems should be more responsive to the challenges from rising temperatures, b) Several States have action plans and early warning initiatives but inadequate outreach, particularly in rural India. This should be addressed, c) Promote newer crop varieties that mature early, d) Greater emphasis on aiding farmers to tweak soil and water management practices to adapt to the impact of heat waves.

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