It is the fifth heatwave to hit the capital since March. In many parts of the country, residents have been advised to take precautionary measures.
More vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses, need special protection from the heat.
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“This heat wave could kill thousands of people,” warns Robert Rohde of the US climate analysis institute Berkeley Earth. According to the Indian government, mortality from heat in India has increased by more than 60 percent since 1980.
Heat waves are not uncommon in India. In May and June in particular, temperatures regularly rise to 40 degrees Celsius. But this year the summer started particularly early and the temperatures rose remarkably quickly as early as March. Average temperatures in recent months have been the highest on record in India.
The Indian Meteorological Service (IMD) attributes the current heat wave to local atmospheric factors. In the northwest of the country and in central India, storms from the Mediterranean Sea caused disruption and as a result there was insufficient precipitation before the monsoon. Anticyclones, areas with high air pressure, also led to the hot and dry weather in March.
The effects of the heat are already visible. The unexpectedly high temperatures have affected the wheat harvest. In view of the additional supply difficulties caused by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, this could have global consequences.
The second largest wheat producer in the world after China was still planning in February with an annual production of 111.32 million tons. Now the forecast has been reduced to 105 million tons and is likely to fall further.
The wheat is primarily intended for the domestic market, as many of the almost 1.4 billion inhabitants are suffering from poverty and hunger after two years of the pandemic. The export ban announced on Saturday is intended to ensure food security in India, at the expense of countries that also depend on cheap grain.
According to experts, the heat waves in India are increasing in intensity, frequency and duration. The root of this is global warming, says Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate researcher at the Indian Institute for Tropical Meteorology. Extreme weather used to occur about twice a century, now every few years.
IMD’s D. Sivananda Pai speaks of more challenges from the heat wave hitting the country. The growing population and the resulting strain on resources would, for example, drive deforestation and traffic congestion.
In addition, the poorer population in particular is particularly badly affected by the extreme weather event, as they have fewer opportunities to stay in cooled houses. The intensive use of the many air conditioning systems leads to an enormous demand for electricity.
But the power grid is too unstable for an increase in demand of 31 percent in some cases. The consequences are power outages of sometimes up to seven hours a day.
Since 2015, the government has taken measures to mitigate the effects of heat waves. Among other things, there is a ban on working outdoors during the hottest hours and an early warning system.