We are used to the heat in South Asia. But soaring temperatures are reaching new records – sooner than usual.
It is hot in India and Pakistan. In northern India in particular, temperatures rise to values that are usually only reached in summer. In some places the temperature is already more than 45 degrees. Forecasters expect to break the 50-degree mark by the end of the week. And that’s after it was hotter in March than at any time since records began more than 120 years ago.
Natalie Mairuth says that the body finds it difficult to cool down because it is so warm in the morning. She is a freelance journalist currently based in Delhi. “You leave the room in the morning without air conditioning and feel the warmth coming towards you.” A score of 46 was reported for Friday.
Daily battle against the heat
People in affected areas are developing their own strategies to deal with the heat. If you can, leave the house only if necessary or with an air-conditioned vehicle if possible. In Delhi, the government advised companies not to send their employees to the office. Those who work outside should take shelter in the shade or take breaks.
Mairuth said most homes have ceiling fans. However, these will not be sufficient at such high temperatures. And they need energy. The only thing that helps: drink. Coconut water, water with salt and sugar, watermelon liquid.
Lent also falls during this heat wave. “In India there are nearly 200 million Muslim women, many of whom fast,” says the journalist. Authorities are issuing heat warnings and doctors are on alert.
In some regions, such as northern India, the burden is greater. Because in the north it is very dry. “And then there’s also the risk that the body won’t take it,” says Natalie Mairuth.
Hot weather affects not only people, but also nature and agriculture. There are already warnings that this year’s crop will be affected.
India grows a lot of rice and wheat, and plans to export more. Expectations have now fallen. “If it gets hot faster, the fruits that ripen earlier are smaller. Farmers also have to make sure their crops don’t wither,” says Mayruth. The situation can be difficult, especially for small farmers.
Such extreme events are increasing with climate change. The journalist in North India explains that one of the Indian government’s initiatives is reforestation. However, it plays a role, whether forests are reforested or whether plantations are involved. Because it will be cut again at a certain point. And: “The hotter they get, the more water they use. This has an impact on agriculture.”
Climate researcher at ETH ranks extreme event
Consequently Climate researcher Eric Fisher These high temperatures usually don’t happen until June and not as early as April. It will likely get hotter in the next few days. The frequency of such events has already increased in the past. “The Global Climate Report published last year shows that events that we were only expecting every 50 years are now occurring at a rate of five times more, and more than 14 times more likely to occur with global warming of 2 degrees,” Fisher explains. In the future, such heat waves are likely to become the norm, but data on them is still being collected.
But people can only adapt on a limited scale, especially in regions like Pakistan and India, where the heat is often accompanied by high humidity. “What we call ‘tüppig’ in Swiss German is especially a health challenge because the body can no longer cool off either,” says the ETH researcher.
Without artificial cooling, adjustment can be difficult. According to Fisher, the limits of human adaptation without artificial cooling are 35 degrees at 100% relative humidity. We have observed similar conditions several times in the regions of northern India and Pakistan, but also along the Persian Gulf. With increasing warming, including in the oceans, the risks of such conditions, which are a limit to adaptation, increase more and more,” fears Eric Fischer.
India also relies on solar energy when it comes to energy. The world’s largest solar park is currently being built in India, which is what the government has given its name. India wants to focus on green hydrogen production.” Mairuth estimates that this is positive. On the other hand, one should not forget that coal-fired power generation has increased. These are of course factors accelerating climate change.”
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