'Potential killers': Deadly heatwaves 'inevitable' in India, say experts

Potentially deadly heat waves will likely become more commonplace in India and other south Asian countries in the coming decades even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a new study.

Drying lake effect of extreme weather and heating wave on summer, Climate change and Drought impact
Drying lake effect of extreme weather and heating wave on summer, Climate change and Drought impact

Scientists said such an increase in extreme heat events can create unsafe labour conditions in major crop producing parts of India, such as Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, as well as coastal regions and urban centres like Kolkata, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.

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According to the research with two degrees of warming, the population's exposure to lethal temperatures rises by close to three times as compared to recent years.

'Even at 1.5 degrees, South Asia will have serious consequences in terms of heat stress. That's why there is a need to radically alter the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions,' study author Moetasim Ashfaq added.

While the planet has warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the start of the Industrial Revolution, it may reach 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming by 2040.

'Only half a degree increase from today is going to cause a widespread increase in these events,' Ashfaq said.

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'No time to adapt'

According to the scientists, densely populated South Asian cities already lack regular access to air conditioning, and about 60% of their populations perform agricultural work and cannot escape the heat by staying indoors.

This deadline leaves little time for South Asian countries to adapt, since the people here are especially vulnerable to deadly heat waves with the area already experiencing very hot, humid summers, the researchers added.

'A policy framework is very much needed to fight against heat stress and heat wave-related problems.'

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Droughts, now a certainty?

Climate change will increase the frequency of flash droughts in India in the future, which will have a negative impact on crop production, irrigation demands, and groundwater abstraction, says a study by researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar.

According to the researchers, flash droughts occur due to rapid depletion of soil moisture.

In contrast to the conventional droughts, they said, flash droughts can impact a large region within two-three weeks, severely affecting crop health and irrigation water demands.

(With inputs from PTI)