It has never been warmer in March of this year in India since weather records began 122 years ago. Record temperatures have also been measured regularly in neighboring Pakistan for months. About a third of the country is affected by the heat, in India even around 70 percent. Temperatures exceeded 45 degrees in many places. The Indian capital New Delhi, for example, reported 49 degrees at the beginning of May.

The heat has long since taken its toll: “In March and April, 90 heat-related deaths were reported by the governments in India and Pakistan,” said Aditi Kapoor of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre. Many observers suspect that the number is likely to be significantly higher.

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In fact, heat waves are quite common in India and Pakistan in the period leading up to the onset of the June monsoon rains. But some aspects of this extreme heat are unusual, explained Friederike Otto, climate scientist at Imperial College London and founder of the World Weather Attribution Initiative (WWA): “The heat wave started exceptionally early in March with extremely hot temperatures and has now lasted for almost two months “.

In addition, there was hardly any precipitation in both Pakistan and India in March. In March, meteorologists in Pakistan observed about two-thirds less rain, and in neighboring India there was even 71 percent less precipitation than the average for March.

The WWA has now examined in a study how climate change contributed to the heat catastrophe. The result is clear: Man-made global warming has made heat on the Indian subcontinent 30 times more likely.

In addition, the extreme heat is always warmer. A similar event under pre-industrial climatic conditions would have been one degree cooler on average, according to the WWA report.

That may not seem like much in view of reports from the Arctic or Antarctic, which recently reported temperatures of up to 40 degrees above average. However, Otto warns against making skewed comparisons with India and Pakistan: “In this climatic region, even minimal increases in temperature can be life-threatening.”

Because the human body has its limits – especially when the heat is accompanied by high humidity: heat waves from 35 degrees with high humidity can be deadly for humans. Under these circumstances, the dryness of the Indian heat has so far probably had a soothing effect – to a small extent.

Should the world warm up by two degrees by the end of the century, the WWA expects extreme heat events like this year to become more frequent. They are likely to occur two to 20 times as often in the region examined at the same time of year. And these heat waves would then be 0.5 and 1.5 degrees warmer than today.

The WWA points out that their calculations are rather conservative. That means it’s likely that the heatwaves will come back even faster and get significantly warmer.

The basis for the so-called attribution research are statistical methods that examine the influence of climate change on an extreme event. Weather data from current events are compared with data from models that can be used to calculate how the climate would have developed without man-made emissions. The respective deviation between real extreme weather events and a world without climate change results in the influence of climate change.

The Met Office, the UK’s meteorological service, released a similar attribution study last week, calculating the region’s likelihood of extreme heat. 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 only used the record heat in India in 2010 for comparison and only its own climate model was used. The WWA study, on the other hand, used an ensemble of 20 models and included the early onset of the current heat wave. In April and May of this year, the northern states of West Bengal to Rajasthan in particular suffered from the hottest temperatures in more than 100 years. According to the Met Office, a similar heat event would only occur once every 312 years in an intact climate.

However, climate change is dramatically changing this certainty: British meteorologists consider it likely that similar heat waves could overtake the Indian subcontinent every three years in the future. By the end of the century and with correspondingly further rising temperatures, the range would shorten again. Then the extreme heat could even occur every 1.15 years.

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 cushion the global wheat shortage with additional deliveries of ten million tons of wheat.

The heat reduced the wheat crop by 6 percent, according to a sub-department of India’s Food Ministry. In the meantime, however, there are isolated exceptions that make exporting abroad possible.

In India itself, something else is also aggravating the situation. Last year, several authorities complained about the shortage of coal in the country. With the heat, the power consumption for air conditioning and fans has recently increased significantly. As a result, the power plants were increasingly overwhelmed. As a result, there were power outages in many regions.

“The governments in India and Pakistan must therefore revise the heat action plans that are already available in many cities and municipalities and adapt them to the more threatening climate conditions in the future,” said Red Cross climate expert Kapoor. These plans already exist in 130 cities and villages in India. However, there is still a lot of catching up to do, especially when it comes to coordination between individual authorities.

At the same time, India, the third largest emitter of CO2 emissions, is not necessarily considered a pioneer in climate protection. The country does not want to achieve climate neutrality until 2070. As part of the World Economic Forum in Davos, various Indian companies have now come together to find common ways to implement the Indian climate target.

In Davos on Monday it was said that the green transformation could bring 50 million new jobs and $15 trillion in sales. It remains questionable whether the findings of climate science and the soon to be regularly threatened extreme heat are taken into account.