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Extreme Heatwave in India Why 2024 is the Hottest Year?

The Hottest Summers in History: Unprecedented Heatwaves and Climate Change Do you remember the summer two years ago, in 2022? It was dubbed the "Hottest Summer Ever." That year, India experienced such extreme temperatures that it broke a 122-year-old record. However, the summer of 2023 surpassed even that, with scientists declaring it the hottest summer in the last 2,000 years in the Northern Hemisphere. Record-Breaking Heat in 2024: A New Normal? As we enter 2024, the trend continues with alarming intensity. January 2024 was the hottest January ever recorded. February followed suit as the hottest February, March was the hottest March, and April set a new record as the hottest month ever recorded. Over the past 11 months, Earth has experienced unprecedented heat, signaling that the current scorching temperatures are far from normal. Southeast Asia's Heatwave Crisis You are not alone in facing this extreme heat. Last month, South India and Southeast Asia endured record-breaking heatwaves. Countries like Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia experienced unbearable temperatures. The Philippines saw the heat index soar above 53°C, while Uttarakhand faced devastating forest fires. India's Struggle with Soaring Temperatures In the first week of May, forest fires erupted in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand. Heatwave warnings were issued across India, even in typically cooler regions like Kerala. North India saw temperatures rise above 46°C, underscoring the severe impact of global warming and climate change. Beyond Climate Change: Additional Causes and Local Solutions While global warming and climate change are major contributors, they are not the sole reasons behind these extreme weather events. It's essential to understand other factors and explore local solutions to mitigate the heat. Extreme Weather Events Worldwide Extreme weather is not confined to India or Southeast Asia; it's a global phenomenon. In South America, recent news highlighted catastrophic floods in Southern Brazil, displacing over 150,000 people and resulting in at least 83 deaths. Entire cities were submerged, showcasing the devastating impact of climate change. Severe Drought in Southern Africa Simultaneously, Southern Africa is experiencing a severe drought, leaving many families struggling to meet their daily needs. This drought, the worst since 1947, has led several Southern African countries to request $5.5 billion in aid to prevent widespread starvation. The Role of El Niño in Extreme Weather A significant weather event behind this global destruction is El Niño, a natural climate cycle occurring every 5-7 years. Climate change has intensified El Niño, making its impacts more severe. El Niño, or El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), is the second-largest factor influencing Earth's climate after the Earth's revolution around the Sun. Understanding El Niño El Niño occurs in the Pacific Ocean, the world's largest and deepest ocean, located between Asia and the Americas. Normally, trade winds blow from east to west over the Pacific, moving warm surface water towards Australia. This movement causes colder, nutrient-rich water to rise near South America, a process called upwelling. This cycle supports marine life and impacts weather patterns, leading to more rain near Australia. The Disruption of Trade Winds However, when these trade winds weaken, the upwelling diminishes, and the warm water remains on the surface. This disruption leads to drastic changes in weather patterns, contributing to extreme events like heatwaves, droughts, and floods across the globe. Mitigating the Impact of Extreme Heat To combat these rising temperatures, local and global initiatives are crucial. Communities can adopt measures such as improving urban planning to increase green spaces, enhancing water management systems, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. On a larger scale, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources are vital steps in addressing the root causes of climate change.

Do you remember the summer two years ago, in 2022? It was dubbed the “Hottest Summer Ever.” That year, India experienced such extreme temperatures that it broke a 122-year-old record. However, the summer of 2023 surpassed even that, with scientists declaring it the hottest summer in the last 2,000 years in the Northern Hemisphere.

Record-Breaking Heat in 2024: A New Normal?

As we enter 2024, the trend continues with alarming intensity. January 2024 was the hottest January ever recorded. February followed suit as the hottest February, March was the hottest March, and April set a new record as the hottest month ever recorded. Over the past 11 months, Earth has experienced unprecedented heat, signaling that the current scorching temperatures are far from normal.

Southeast Asia’s Heatwave Crisis

You are not alone in facing this extreme heat. Last month, South India and Southeast Asia endured record-breaking heatwaves. Countries like Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia experienced unbearable temperatures. The Philippines saw the heat index soar above 53°C, while Uttarakhand faced devastating forest fires.

India’s Struggle with Soaring Temperatures

In the first week of May, forest fires erupted in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand. Heatwave warnings were issued across India, even in typically cooler regions like Kerala. North India saw temperatures rise above 46°C, underscoring the severe impact of global warming and climate change.

Beyond Climate Change: Additional Causes and Local Solutions

While global warming and climate change are major contributors, they are not the sole reasons behind these extreme weather events. It’s essential to understand other factors and explore local solutions to mitigate the heat.

Extreme Weather Events Worldwide

Extreme weather is not confined to India or Southeast Asia; it’s a global phenomenon. In South America, recent news highlighted catastrophic floods in Southern Brazil, displacing over 150,000 people and resulting in at least 83 deaths. Entire cities were submerged, showcasing the devastating impact of climate change.

Severe Drought in Southern Africa

Simultaneously, Southern Africa is experiencing a severe drought, leaving many families struggling to meet their daily needs. This drought, the worst since 1947, has led several Southern African countries to request $5.5 billion in aid to prevent widespread starvation.

The Role of El Niño in Extreme Weather

A significant weather event behind this global destruction is El Niño, a natural climate cycle occurring every 5-7 years. Climate change has intensified El Niño, making its impacts more severe. El Niño, or El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), is the second-largest factor influencing Earth’s climate after the Earth’s revolution around the Sun.

Understanding El Niño

El Niño occurs in the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest and deepest ocean, located between Asia and the Americas. Normally, trade winds blow from east to west over the Pacific, moving warm surface water towards Australia. This movement causes colder, nutrient-rich water to rise near South America, a process called upwelling. This cycle supports marine life and impacts weather patterns, leading to more rain near Australia.

The Disruption of Trade Winds

However, when these trade winds weaken, the upwelling diminishes, and the warm water remains on the surface. This disruption leads to drastic changes in weather patterns, contributing to extreme events like heatwaves, droughts, and floods across the globe.

Mitigating the Impact of Extreme Heat

To combat these rising temperatures, local and global initiatives are crucial. Communities can adopt measures such as improving urban planning to increase green spaces, enhancing water management systems, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. On a larger scale, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources are vital steps in addressing the root causes of climate change.

Unraveling El Niño and La Niña: The Climate Cycle Impacting Global Weather Patterns

The clouds meant to bring rain to Australia can end up raining anywhere over the Pacific Ocean during El Niño events. This causes Australia to become much drier, a significant aspect of the El Niño phenomenon. El Niño is not a regular cycle; it can occur every 4, 5, or 7 years and lasts between 6 to 12 months. During El Niño, global weather patterns shift dramatically, resulting in higher temperatures and drier conditions in Australia and Southeast Asia. This increases the risk of heatwaves and wildfires, such as the catastrophic Australian wildfires of 2020.

El Niño’s Global Impact

The most recent El Niño event occurred from 2018 to 2019, lasting until January 2020. This period saw devastating bushfires in Australia during December 2019. Currently, another El Niño has been active since January 2023. Interestingly, El Niño has the opposite effect in South America compared to Asia and Australia, leading to increased rainfall and higher flood risks, which explains the severe floods in Brazil today.

La Niña: The Opposite of El Niño

El Niño’s counterpart, La Niña, presents a contrasting phenomenon. While El Niño translates to “the boy” in Spanish, La Niña means “the girl.” La Niña occurs when the trade winds blowing westward across the Pacific strengthen, causing colder water to flow towards South America and warmer water towards Australia. This results in more rainfall in Australia and generally lasts longer than El Niño, ranging from 1 to 4 years.

Recent El Niño and La Niña Events

After the 2018-2019 El Niño, La Niña emerged in 2020-2021, leading to significant flooding in Australia by March 2021. The graph of El Niño and La Niña events over the last 30 years shows red peaks for El Niño and blue trenches for La Niña. The strongest El Niño was in 2015-2016, followed by the 1997-1998 event and the current 2023-2024 event. The recent La Niña from 2020-2021 persisted until January 2023.

Implications for India’s Climate

As the El Niño graph declines, scientists anticipate the onset of La Niña by July-August. This could lead to a better-than-average monsoon in India. The 2023 rainy season saw less rainfall due to El Niño, which also contributed to the extremely hot summers of 2023 and 2024, causing droughts in Southern African countries and exacerbating floods in Dubai. Human-induced climate change intensifies El Niño’s effects, making floods more dangerous and heatwaves more severe. For instance, Kerala issued heatwave warnings only twice: once in 2016 and again in 2024, both during El Niño events.

Understanding Heat Waves

The Indian Meteorological Department has criteria for declaring heat waves: temperatures above 40°C in the plains, 37°C in coastal areas, and 30°C in mountainous regions. A heatwave is declared if temperatures exceed these norms by 4.5°C for two consecutive days, and a severe heatwave if the excess is 6.4°C. If temperatures exceed 45°C, a heatwave is declared without other conditions.

The Role of Humidity in Heat Perception

Temperature alone does not determine how unbearable the heat feels; humidity plays a critical role. For example, 45°C in Delhi is often more tolerable than 38°C in Mumbai due to differences in humidity. Higher humidity makes higher temperatures feel more oppressive. Relative humidity measures the maximum moisture content in the air at a specific temperature, with 100% relative humidity indicating air saturation.

Conclusion: Addressing the Effects of El Niño and La Niña

Understanding the intricacies of El Niño and La Niña is crucial in preparing for their impacts. These climate cycles significantly alter weather patterns globally, causing extreme heat, droughts, and floods. Addressing these challenges requires both local and global efforts. Enhancing urban planning, water management, and agricultural practices can help mitigate local effects. On a broader scale, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting renewable energy are essential to tackling climate change and moderating the severity of these natural phenomena. By taking comprehensive actions, we can better adapt to and mitigate the effects of these powerful climate cycles.

Understanding the Heat Index: How Temperature and Humidity Affect Your Comfort

Hot air holds more moisture than cold air, reaching a saturation point where it can’t hold any more. This basic science concept, taught in schools, serves as a foundation for understanding weather phenomena. Speaking of education, Ginni AI Tutor is an exceptional tool designed to aid students. This AI app encompasses knowledge from all subjects and CBSE books for classes 4-8. It generates MCQ and true/false questions chapter-wise, making it an invaluable study aid.

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Now, returning to our main topic, hot air has a higher capacity for retaining moisture compared to cold air. When the relative humidity reaches 100% in hot air, it holds more moisture than cold air at the same humidity level. High humidity makes it difficult for sweat to evaporate from our bodies, impairing our natural cooling mechanism and potentially leading to dangerous conditions.

This interplay between temperature and humidity is crucial, and the Heat Index is a metric that accounts for both. The Heat Index indicates how hot the weather feels based on temperature and humidity levels. For instance, a weather app might show Mumbai’s temperature as 31°C but with a “feels like” temperature of 37°C due to humidity.

Heat Index charts help us understand these effects. For example, at 35°C with 50% relative humidity, it feels like 41°C. If the humidity rises to 75%, the “feels like” temperature jumps to a hazardous 53°C. Such extreme conditions fall into the Red category, signifying a high risk of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke.

The recent deadly heat wave in the Philippines exemplifies this danger. The Heat Index reached a staggering 53°C, although the actual temperature was around 40°C. This discrepancy highlights the importance of considering both temperature and humidity. Even at a Heat Index of 32°C to 41°C, caution is necessary to avoid heat stroke during prolonged outdoor activities.

In Delhi, the Heat Index can reach unbearable levels by the end of June, coinciding with the onset of the rainy season and rising humidity. Reports indicate that Delhi’s Heat Index might soar to 56°C in the coming days, posing severe health risks.

Another factor exacerbating heat waves locally is the Urban Heat Island Effect. Cities with more trees and parks are relatively cooler, while areas dominated by concrete and glass buildings, wide highways, and asphalt surfaces are significantly hotter. These Urban Heat Islands absorb and retain heat, intensifying the heat wave impact.

Understanding the Heat Index and the Urban Heat Island Effect is crucial for managing heat-related risks. As temperatures rise globally, awareness and preparedness can mitigate the adverse effects on human health and comfort.

Urban Heat Islands: Understanding Their Impact and How to Mitigate Them

In urban areas, concrete and asphalt dominate the landscape, absorbing sunlight and retaining heat. This phenomenon, known as the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, leads to significant temperature differences within a city. Lack of ventilation and poor air circulation exacerbate the problem, causing heat to accumulate during the day and release slowly at night.

A study in Delhi revealed that areas such as Connaught Place, Sitaram Bazar, and Bhikaji Cama Place, where the UHI effect is prominent, were 3°C to 8°C hotter than greener areas like Hauz Khas District Park and Buddha Jayanti Park. This substantial temperature difference underscores the vital role of trees and greenery in urban environments.

Rethinking Urban Development

Contrary to popular belief, extensive networks of roads and highways do not equate to true development. Often, these infrastructures require cutting down forests, sometimes even through national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Real development should focus on creating walkable, green cities where the temperature is comfortable, and reliance on cars is minimized. Cars contribute to the UHI effect by releasing heat, making urban areas even hotter.

Promoting pedestrian-friendly spaces and banning cars in certain areas, as seen in Paris, can significantly reduce the UHI effect. Paris has undertaken measures such as removing asphalt, planting trees, and encouraging cycling, transforming the city into a more comfortable and environmentally friendly space.

Mitigating the Urban Heat Island Effect

1. Green Urban Planning

Incorporating greenery into urban planning is crucial. Planting trees, creating parks, and developing green roofs can help reduce temperatures. Trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide, provide shade, and enhance air quality, making cities more livable.

2. Sustainable Building Designs

Buildings can be designed to minimize the need for air conditioning. Natural ventilation, reflective roofs, and the use of light-colored materials can significantly reduce indoor temperatures. Historical buildings in Dubai, for example, feature ventilation towers to enhance air circulation. Similarly, painting roofs white can reflect sunlight and lower temperatures by 2°C to 3°C.

3. Radiant Cooling Technology

Radiant cooling is an innovative yet ancient technology that can serve as an alternative to air conditioning. By installing pipes in walls that circulate cold water, buildings can maintain a cool temperature without relying on AC units. This method, inspired by historical water channels used in forts and monuments like the Taj Mahal, can help keep urban areas cool while reducing electricity costs.

4. Promoting Public Transport

Encouraging the use of public transport over personal vehicles can significantly reduce the UHI effect. Public transportation systems are more efficient and generate less heat compared to the extensive use of cars. Developing efficient and accessible public transit options can also alleviate traffic congestion and improve air quality.

5. Utilizing Green Roofs and Walls

Green roofs and walls not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of buildings but also provide insulation, reducing the need for air conditioning. Plants on roofs and walls can absorb sunlight, lower surface temperatures, and improve air quality by filtering pollutants.

6. Implementing Water Features

Water features such as fountains, ponds, and water channels can have a cooling effect on their surroundings. The evaporation of water absorbs heat, thereby lowering the ambient temperature. This method has been used historically and can be integrated into modern urban planning.

Urban areas face a significant challenge from the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, where concrete and asphalt absorb and retain heat, causing localized temperature spikes. To counter this, increasing greenery through more trees and parks is crucial. These natural elements can help mitigate the impact of heat waves, making cities more livable.

However, implementing these solutions promptly is vital. Future projections indicate that heat waves will become more intense and frequent. A recent study on Future Projections for the Tropical Indian Ocean predicts nearly permanent marine heat waves in the Indian Ocean in the coming years. By 2050, some areas might experience heat waves lasting 220 to 250 days annually.

The Importance of Urban Green Spaces

Expanding urban green spaces is essential for combating the UHI effect. Trees and parks not only provide shade and cooler environments but also improve air quality and enhance biodiversity. Urban planners should prioritize the creation of green corridors and the preservation of existing natural landscapes within cities.

Sustainable Building Practices

To reduce the reliance on air conditioning, buildings should incorporate sustainable designs. Techniques such as natural ventilation, the use of light-colored and reflective materials, and green roofs can significantly lower indoor temperatures. Historical architectural practices, such as the ventilation towers in Dubai, offer valuable insights into passive cooling methods.

Innovative Cooling Technologies

Radiant cooling, an ancient yet effective technology, involves circulating cold water through pipes embedded in walls. This method can maintain comfortable indoor temperatures without the high energy consumption associated with air conditioners. Promoting such technologies can lead to cooler urban environments and reduced energy costs.

Promoting Public Transport and Reducing Car Usage

Reducing car usage in urban areas is crucial for mitigating the UHI effect. Cars contribute significantly to heat generation and air pollution. Promoting public transport, cycling, and walking can alleviate these issues. Cities like Paris have successfully implemented car bans in certain areas, replaced asphalt with greenery, and promoted cycling to combat the UHI effect.

Implementing Water Features

Water features such as fountains, ponds, and water channels can have a cooling effect on their surroundings. The evaporation of water absorbs heat, thereby lowering the ambient temperature. Integrating these features into urban planning can provide a natural cooling mechanism.

Urgency of Action

The need for immediate action cannot be overstated. As heat waves become more frequent and severe, the UHI effect will exacerbate the situation, making urban areas increasingly uninhabitable. By implementing green infrastructure, promoting sustainable building practices, and reducing reliance on cars, cities can become more resilient to heat waves.

Conclusion

Addressing the Urban Heat Island effect requires a comprehensive approach that includes increasing urban greenery, adopting sustainable building designs, promoting public transport, and utilizing innovative cooling technologies. Immediate implementation of these solutions is crucial to mitigate the growing threat of heat waves. By taking these steps, we can create more livable, sustainable urban environments for the future.


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