It has never been warmer in India than it has been in March this year since weather records began 122 years ago. Record temperatures have also been measured regularly in neighboring Pakistan for several months. About a third of the country is affected by heat, up to about 70 percent in India. Temperatures exceeded 45 degrees in many places. The Indian capital, New Delhi, for example, registered a score of 49 at the beginning of May.
“In March and April, the governments of India and Pakistan reported 90 heat-related deaths,” said Aditi Kapoor of the Climate Center of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Many observers believe the number is likely to be much higher.
In fact, heat waves are very common in India and Pakistan in the run-up to the onset of the monsoons in June. But some aspects of this extreme heat are unusual, explains Frederic Otto, a climatologist at Imperial College London. Founder of the World Weather Attribution Initiative (WWA): “The heat wave started exceptionally in early March with very high temperatures and has continued so far for about two months.”
In addition, there was very little rain in both Pakistan and India in March. In March, meteorologists in Pakistan noted two-thirds less rainfall, and in neighboring India there was 71 percent less rainfall than the March average.
Attribution study of the impact of climate change
WWA has now in a study It investigates how climate change is contributing to the heat catastrophe. The result is clear: Man-made global warming has increased the likelihood of warming in the Indian subcontinent 30 times. The Academy published the study on its own initiative and not through a specialized journal, as is customary in scientific circles.
In addition, intense heat is always warmer. According to the WWA report, a similar event under pre-industrial conditions would have been one degree cooler on average.
This may not seem like much given the reports from the North Pole or the Antarctic, which recently reported temperatures as high as 40 degrees above average. However, Otto warns against making skewed comparisons with India and Pakistan: “In this climatic region, even minimal temperature increases can be life-threatening.”
Because the human body has limits – especially when heat is accompanied by high humidity: heat waves of 35 degrees combined with high humidity can be deadly to humans. Under these conditions, the drying up of the Indian heat is likely to have had a calming effect – to an extent.
If the world is two degrees warmer by the end of the century, the academy predicts Extreme heat events like this year continue to increase. They are likely to occur 2 to 20 times in the area examined at the same time of year. These heat waves will be 0.5 and 1.5 degrees warmer than today.
The WWA notes that their accounts are somewhat conservative. This means that heat waves are likely to return faster and become significantly warmer.
A similar study by the British Weather Service
The basis of so-called attribution research are statistical methods that study the impact of climate change on an extreme event. Weather data from current events is compared with data from models that can be used to calculate how the climate would evolve without man-made emissions. The aberration between true climate extremes and a world free of climate change leads to the impact of climate change.
The Met Office, the UK’s meteorological service, had a similar office last week Attribution study Display and calculate the probability of extreme heat for an area. According to them, climate change has made heat waves in India and Pakistan a hundred times more likely.
In contrast to the study by the WWA, the Met Office used only the standard temperature of India in 2010 for comparison and only its climate model was used. On the other hand, the WWA study used a set of 20 models and included the early onset of the current heat wave. In April and May this year, the northern states from West Bengal to Rajasthan in particular suffered the highest temperatures in more than 100 years. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, a similar heat event would only occur once every 312 years in a healthy climate.
However, climate change is significantly altering this certainty: British meteorologists believe that similar heat waves will likely overtake the Indian subcontinent every three years in the future. By the end of the century and as temperatures rise correspondingly, the range will shrink again. Then extreme heat can occur every 1.15 years.
Heat with global repercussions
The current heat in the Indian subcontinent is already having a global impact. In mid-May, India announced that it would halt grain exports. As the world’s second largest wheat supplier, the Indian government had previously wanted to alleviate the global wheat shortage with additional shipments of ten million tons of wheat.
The heat reduced the wheat yield by 6 percent, according to a sub-department of India’s Food Ministry. In the meantime, there are isolated exceptions that make exporting abroad possible.
In India itself, something else is also aggravating the situation. In the past year, many authorities have complained about the coal shortage in the country. With the rise in temperature, the energy consumption of air conditioners and fans has increased significantly recently. As a result, power plants are becoming increasingly overwhelmed. As a result, there were blackouts in many areas.
“The governments of India and Pakistan should review heat action plans already available in many cities and municipalities and adapt them to more threatening weather conditions in the future,” said Red Cross climate expert Kapoor. These plans are already in place in 130 cities and villages in India. However, there is still a lot to catch up, especially when it comes to coordination between individual authorities.
At the same time, India, the third largest producer of carbon dioxide emissions, is not necessarily considered a leader in climate protection. The country does not want to achieve climate neutrality until 2070. As part of the World Economic Forum in Davos, several Indian companies have now come together to find common ways to implement the Indian climate goal.
It was said in Davos on Monday that the green turn could create 50 million new jobs and $15 trillion in sales. There is still a question as to whether the findings of climate science and extreme heat that will be systematically threatened will be taken into account.
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