Climate Change

State of India’s Environment in figures: India recorded 280 heat wave days across 16 states in 2022 — most in decade

With climate change, such extreme events will become severe, more frequent  

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Thursday 02 June 2022

In 2022, India recorded its hottest March. This triggered an early onslaught of heat waves that engulfed several states across North, Central and East India from March-May this year, according to a new publication. 

Heat-wave like conditions prevailed in 16 states of India from March 11-April 24, 2022, stated State of India’s Environment In figures, 2022 (SoE in figures, 2022). 

The country reported 280 heat wave days from March 11-May 18, 2022 — the highest in 12 years, it said. While IMD releases heatwave days for individual states every year, the book has added them up to reach the India figure. This has been done to make the numbers comparable. For example: In 2011, heatwaves were reported in Andhra Pradesh (8), Rajasthan (7), Punjab (6), Haryana and Tamil Nadu (3 each), Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh (2 each), and Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi,  Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal (1 each). They add to 40 heatwave days for India.

The annual publication by Down To Earth magazine of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit, analysed data released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

This seventh edition of the annual e-book was released at an online event June 2, 2022 by Sunita Narain, director-general, CSE and editor of DTE.

Heat waves on land and depressions in the sea this year began early in and around India on March 11, 2022. 

The country’s hazard atlas launched by the IMD in 2021 has not considered March while providing heat waves data. The IMD dashboard has provided figures on “heat waves” for the months of April to July only.  This is an indicator that “heat waves” in March, 2022 are “not normal” 

This is almost double of what the country experienced in 2012, the second-highest heat wave year in the past decade, according to the publication.

A heat wave occurs when the temperature crosses 40 degrees Celsius in the plains, 37°C in the coastal areas and 30°C in the hills, according to IMD.

Heat wave is declared on the day an area records temperatures 4.5-6.4°C  above normal. When temperatures rise more than 6.4°C above normal, it is classified as a ‘severe’ heat wave, according to IMD.

More than half heat waves in 5 states

Five states accounted for 54 per cent of the heat waves this year. These were Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana, according to SoE in figures, 2022.

Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir — all in the Himalayan regions — have been unusually warm this year, according to the e-book. 

HP recorded 27 heat wave days, Rajasthan 39 and Madhya Pradesh 38.

Climate change link

The unusual heatwaves in March 2022 could be due to an unexpected climate anomaly, which could be linked to global warming, alerted Down To Earth based on its interaction with experts in March 2022

April was the hottest month for northwest and central India and the third-hottest April the country has seen in the past 122 years (1901 to 2022), IMD had analysed.

Such unusual, early heat waves which swept India and Pakistan in 2022 were made 30 times more likely due to the direct impact of climate change, claimed a recent global study by World Weather Attribution Network (WWAN). 

These heat waves pose a major risk to public health and at least 90 deaths were recorded in the two countries (India and Pakistan), stated the global study based on media reports. 

Heatwaves are termed the “silent disaster” as heat-related deaths are often undercounted around the world for a number of reasons, wrote WWAN in its study.

So, these are likely to be under-estimates as at least 39 deaths due to heat wave were reported from just 5 states — Maharashtra (26), Jharkhand (2), Odisha (6), Rajasthan (2) and Telangana(2) as of May 3, 2022.

Climate change is rapid, widespread and irreversible, alerted Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its sixth assessment report. The severity and frequency of extreme events will increase in a warming world, including India, CSE reminded in its annual book.

Such events can make the elderly and residents of low-income areas more vulnerable, another study published in the journal Earth’s Future had noted

When extreme events including heat waves are set to increase in severity and frequency, the poor in informal housing, including the slum dwellers, will suffer the most. 

Affordable housing projects fail to comply with the latest energy code, according to a CSE analysis.

This reminds of the urgency to incorporate heat-resilient, affordable housing as an integral element of “urban planning”.

in 16 of the 56 cities analysed by SoE In figures, 2022, one out of every four residents lives in slums. These include three capital cities Raipur, Hyderabad , Mumbai

For more insights, please get your copy of State of India’s Environment In Figures, 2022.


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