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India is now 250 per cent more likely to experience a deadly heat wave than 50 years ago. In fact, the twin calamity of heat wave and drought is increasing fast. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science have found that frequency of heat waves accompanied by drought has increased in magnitude and in area over the past three decades. They both have a serious bearing on water resources, affecting agriculture.
The magnitude of loss
Our analysis suggests that extreme weather events have increased from just one during 1900-1910 to 61 during 1971-80. That number almost tripled to 162 during 2001-2010. Since 1900, 45,11,979 people have died in extreme weather events in India. It is greater than the population of Kuwait. In fact, the total number of people affected by these extreme weather events -2,376,510,842 (2.38 billion) is much more than the current population of India. The country had to suffer economic loss worth US$ 202,293,666 ($US 202 million) since 1900. Let's take a look at how these extreme events increased in scale and number over the last 118 years.
Data Source: EM-DAT | The international disasters database, 2018, Indian Metrological Department (IMD) and Relief Web
Rising temperature anomaly
The analysis also suggests that the warming trend had started showing more prominently in the last few decades of the 20th century. While the annual temperature anomaly used to be 0.23°C during 1900s, 0.34°C in 1952, and 0.45°C during the 1980s, it suddenly shot up to 1.29°C in the 90s. Since 2000, the annual temperature anomaly has remained consistently high, ranging between 0.72°C and 1°C.
Did you know? 13 out of the 15 warmest years were during the past 15 years (2002-2016). The last decade (2007-2018) was also the warmest on record.
Graph shows the warming trend in India
Use filters and hover over the bar to see details In search of a resilient future
The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is increasing with rising temperature. For example, in the winters of 2017, when the average temperature was 2.95°C higher than the 1901-1930 baseline, the worst drought in a century happened in southern India, affecting 330 million people. While the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events in India is on the rise, an IMD analysis has indicated that our vulnerability is also increasing. Today, India is more vulnerable to extreme rainfall as more people are living in low-lying areas and land development is changing drainage patterns.
"It is an uncomfortable fact that we do not have a semblance of the plan to deal with this changing weather system. We are totally unprepared for what is today understood to be the extreme and variable nature of the monsoon. It is a result of our combined and abject inability to mitigate global emissions, which is leading to such weird weather events. It is also the result of our mismanagement of resources," Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment, recently wrote in one of her columns.
✸ EM-DAT | The international disasters database
✸ India Meteorological Department (IMD)
✸ Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)
✸ 2017: The year climate change turned the weather really wild, Scroll
✸ Spiralling Temperature: Annual warming trends in India, Lalit Maurya & Rakesh Kamal,
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), June 2017
✸ IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change