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April 18, 2024

Intense Heatwaves to Scorch India This Summer; Worst-hit May be Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka

India continues to bear the brunt of devastating heatwaves year after year with record temperatures during summer. (Image: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File)

India continues to bear the brunt of devastating heatwaves year after year with record temperatures during summer. (Image: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File)

The IMD said the anticipated increase in outdoor activities during the Lok Sabha polls could heighten public vulnerability to heatwaves, due to which advisories have been issued to all states and UTs

The sweltering heat has started making its presence felt, with the MeT predicting an unusually high number of intense heatwaves over most parts of India in the next three months. This means heightened public vulnerability to extreme heat due to increase in outdoor activity during the Lok Sabha elections. Advisories have been issued to all states and union territories, as the mercury has already surged past 38℃ in several cities and is likely to cross 40℃ soon.

“We are expecting above-normal heatwave days till June. At least 10 to 20 heatwave days are expected in different states against the normal of four to eight days every summer. It is essential to take extensive steps at all local levels to safeguard public health at this time,” said Dr M Mohapatra, director-general of meteorology at the IMD on Monday. He said the intensity of heatwaves is expected to be the highest in May to June with above-normal day and night temperatures, especially over central-south India.

India continues to bear the brunt of devastating heatwaves year after year with record temperatures during summer, which also has cascading effects on agriculture, power sector as well as an increase in hospitalisations.

High heat, humidity levels in western states and southern peninsula

The IMD forecast suggests that the western states, as well as parts of the southern peninsula are likely to be the worst-hit this summer with high heat and humidity levels. Gujarat, Madhya Maharashtra and North Karnataka are more prone to increased heatwave days this summer, which could worsen due to below-normal rainfall. This region has already experienced warmer-than-usual temperatures in February and March.

Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, North Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh are other major heatwave-prone states. The extended range summer outlook suggests at least two to eight days of heatwaves are expected in central India, and adjoining areas of the northern plains as well as South India in April, against the normal of only one to three days. The heat stress could be aggravated by the urban heat island effects in some cities.

El Nino year, but transition to neutral conditions by June

“This is an El Nino year, so definitely it is affecting the temperatures over India as well. But the latest forecast suggests it is weakening. It is likely to turn into neutral conditions by the time the southwest monsoon makes its onset over India,” said Mohapatra, referring to the periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean that influences temperatures across countries.

Northwest India, where the mercury is already settling between 35℃ to 40℃ over the past few days, could see some respite in April. The IMD said the monthly rainfall over the region could be normal to above-normal with active western disturbances. Rainfall, however, is likely to be dismally low over the southern states, adding to the heat stress.

Also, no heatwave warnings have been issued for any wheat-producing states over the next two weeks, except Madhya Pradesh. The IMD has ruled out any adverse impact on the rabi crop, even if the temperatures rise above 35℃, as the harvesting is underway.

Advisories issued to states ahead of elections

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member-secretary Kamal Kishore, who was also present in the media briefing, said the organisation has already written to the Election Commission of India (ECI) with the advisory to instruct all the states and concerned stakeholders in the election process.

“We are holding meetings with states to check on compliance of advisories every two weeks. We will hold another meeting with all states and UTs soon. We have 100% coverage in terms of heatwave action plan, so it should guide their response,” Kishore said, adding that all the 23 heatwave-prone states and UTs have submitted revised action plans.

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