Climate Change

Even a small rise in temperature increases chances of heat wave deaths, says new study

Future climate warming will lead to substantial increases in heat-related deaths in India, warns study

 
By Bhavya Khullar
Last Updated: Tuesday 01 May 2018
Researchers have urged the government to put in more efforts to build resilience among vulnerable populations in regions with severe heat waves. Credit: Agnimirh Basu/CSE
Researchers have urged the government to put in more efforts to build resilience among vulnerable populations in regions with severe heat waves. Credit: Agnimirh Basu/CSE Researchers have urged the government to put in more efforts to build resilience among vulnerable populations in regions with severe heat waves. Credit: Agnimirh Basu/CSE

A new study has found that the mean temperature in India has risen by half a degree Celsius over a period of 60 years. This corresponds to 146 per cent increase in the probability of deaths due to heat waves.

This means that even moderate increases in mean temperatures may lead to large increases in heat wave-related deaths, notes the study conducted by researchers from the Indian Institutes of Technology in Delhi and Bombay, along with the University of California and Boise State University, USA. Based on the findings, researchers have urged the government to put in more efforts to build resilience among vulnerable populations in regions with severe heat waves.

In the years—1972, 1988, 1998 and 2003— when there were more than 10 heat wave days on an average across India, there was a corresponding spike in heat-related deaths between 650 and 1,500 people. The substantial increase in mortality rates due to 0.5°C increase in summer mean temperature or two more heat wave days suggests that future climate warming could have a relatively drastic human toll in India and similarly in developing tropical and subtropical countries.

The study is based on temperature data from 395 weather stations from the India Meteorological Department between1960 to 2009. “Our data will create awareness about the impact of rising temperatures in India on health, and this needs to be urgently communicated to the society,” pointed out Dr Subimal Ghosh, a member of the research team from IIT Bombay. The research findings have been published in the journal, Science Advances..

“Our results suggest that future climate warming will lead to substantial increases in heat-related deaths, particularly in developing low-latitude countries, such as India, where heat waves will become more frequent and populations are especially vulnerable to these extreme temperatures,” the researchers said. (India Science Wire)

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  • India weather is highly variable. Several localized and regional factors, both weather and non-weather factors, play major role on weather. Many a times people with little knowledge on such systems write and publish articles in international journals – unfortunately the peers themselves have little knowledge on such.

    People used talk and write saying that desert is moving towards Delhi, the capital city of India [in fact this is one of the question posed to me in the interview for a post in ICRISAT in Hyderabad in 1976]. In 70s one international scientist requested IMD to provide rainfall data from desert zone to answer this question. IMD supplied the data [at that time data was not available on computers but just started to transfer data on to punched cards (I was involved)] by copying from the records as they are. The scientist using this data as it is and published an article in an international journal. My office was just by the side of IMD library, I used to go there to look in to new journals or books during lunch time. The librarian Mr. Dabir showed me the journal in which this article was published. It was shocking. Unfortunately the scientist did not has the knowledge that rainfall data was recorded in inches up to 1956 and there onwards in millimeters. This was brought to the notice of DDGC [(late) Shri K. N. Rao, who was a co-author of WMO’s Climate Change Manual in 1966] and he in turn brought the same to the notice of the scientist. He withdrew the article from the journal.

    In 70s government of India planned to lay new runway in Santacruz [Mumbai] airport for creating new International terminal and for this purpose a hillock was removed [I was a trainee in Santacruz Airport for a month as part of IMD one year training]. Later I plotted the rainfall data of Santacruz and Colaba and found that Santacruz rainfall gradually come down to around 300 mm. Later this was recovered with tall international terminal building construction and several other buildings.

    Indian weather varies with climate system [as defined by IPCC] and general circulation patterns. Heat and cold waves are associated with Western Disturbances, part of general circulation pattern. This flow direction and intensity is modified by several local and regional circulation patterns. On this I published an article in 1978 in IMD Journal.

    Human comfort is related to three weather parameters, namely temperature, relative humidity and wind [speed and direction]. Under dry conditions high temperature rarely kill people. Even with low temperatures with high relative humidity kill people. The intensity is reduced by wind. In fact the impact is directly related to Wet Bulb Temperature. The impact [deaths] of heat wave is high in Bihar region with high Wet Bulb Temperature condition. In desert with high Dry Bulb Temperature in desert the impact [deaths] is less.

    I published papers on these issues in IMD Journal in 70s.

    In India droughts and floods have direct relationship with temperature. For example, during 2002 and 2009 drought years with 0.81 and 0.79% of normal rainfall, the temperature was raised by 0.7 and 0.9 oC. In the present article the figure showed a peak in 2009. This peak is not a part of heat wave condition but it is part of drought. Deaths are associated with several factors associated with drought condition.

    Deaths are also associated with several other factors such as food, shelter, water, etc.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy


    Posted by: Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy | 2 years ago | Reply