What Causes Heatwaves And Why Is North India Facing Extreme Heat Conditions? Explained

On Thursday, maximum temperatures ranged between 45-48 degrees Celsius in most areas of Delhi, Haryana, and Chandigarh, as well as in large regions of Rajasthan and isolated areas in eastern Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha.
heatwave

A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather that can have serious consequences on health and the environment. (File Image)

New Delhi: Delhi and several parts of northern India are experiencing extreme heat, with temperatures reaching the mid-forties Celsius and causing heatwave conditions across the national capital. This May has been the hottest in 11 years for Delhi, with temperatures remaining unusually high both day and night. Safdarjung, the main weather station in Delhi, recorded an average maximum temperature of 41.4 degrees Celsius for May, the highest in over a decade.
According to an IMD report released on Friday afternoon, maximum temperatures in northwest and central India are expected to decrease by 2-3 degrees Celsius over the next three days. On Thursday, maximum temperatures ranged between 45-48 degrees Celsius in most areas of Delhi, Haryana, and Chandigarh, as well as in large regions of Rajasthan and isolated areas in eastern Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha.

What Are Heatwaves?

A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather that can have serious consequences on health and the environment. During a heat wave, temperatures rise above the average for a specific region and time of year, potentially causing exhaustion, heat stroke, and even death in extreme cases.
In simple terms, a heat wave happens when temperatures stay much higher than usual for at least two consecutive days. The IMD defines a heat wave as occurring when the maximum temperature reaches more than or equal to 45°C in the plains and more than or equal to 30°C in the hills. Further, a heat wave can be declared if the temperature in a region is 4.5-6.4°C above normal; if the increase exceeds 6.4°C, it is considered a severe heat wave. These conditions must last for two days in a row for a heat wave to be officially declared.

What Causes Heatwaves?

Climate researchers explain that heat waves arise due to high atmospheric pressure, pushing hot air downward and trapping it near the ground. This high-pressure system acts as a barrier, preventing the hot air from increasing and causing temperatures to increase even more, Business Standard reported.
As the air sinks, it compresses and heats up, resulting in extreme heat conditions. Further, climate change plays a role in the increased frequency and intensity of heat waves by changing global weather patterns and raising the chances of prolonged high-pressure systems.

Why Is North India Facing A Heatwave?

Delhi and much of north and central India are currently experiencing a heatwave, largely because these areas are far from oceans that help regulate temperatures and humidity. The weather in Delhi is significantly influenced by continental air, which is dry air over land. Tropical air masses from the Thar Desert and other hot, dry regions to the west and northwest of India bring additional heat, leading to the heatwave conditions in Delhi and nearby areas.
Another major factor in worsening heatwave conditions in India is the loss of tree cover. Speaking to The Hindu, Indu K. Murthy, head of Climate, Environment and Sustainability at CSTEP, said, “The vast expanses of open areas with very little or no trees increase the impact of direct sunlight.”
As per a report by the Centre for Science and Environment, cities are no longer cooling down at night as they used to, depriving people of relief from the daytime heat. The study stated that "hot nights are as dangerous as midday peak temperatures." In Delhi, nighttime temperatures are only 11.2 degrees Celsius cooler, a 9% decrease compared to the period from 2001 to 2010.
During this period of extreme heat, medical professionals advise maintaining hydration, opting for a diet rich in liquids, refraining from outdoor activities, wearing protective clothing, and promptly seeking medical assistance if any health concerns arise.
End of Article
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