The heat is on for South Asia

Maximum temperatures in India and Pakistan have been continuously over 40 degrees Celsius for almost a fortnight, exceeding the average for early April by up to 10 degrees Celsius in certain regions.

For days at a time in early April, people and animals across large swathes of India and Pakistan lay gasping in whatever shade they could find as the temperature exceeded 43 degrees Celsius and dry wind from the desert seared the plains of Indus and Ganga river basins. As Delhi recorded a maximum of 42.6C on 11 April, 7C above average for this day of the year, there was just one topic of conversation when people ventured out after dusk: nobody could remember such an early heatwave. Few could remember 40-plus days before May or June when such temperatures would be expected.

Meanwhile, across Central Asia, people used to far cooler weather suffered as the thermometer reached the 30s.

The early heatwave was particularly grueling for those fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – when the faithful do not even drink water between sunrise and sunset – and the Hindu holy period Navratra. Residents of urban slums fared the worst under tin or asbestos roofs.

Weather forecasts promised little relief, just more warnings of heatwaves across Punjab, Sindh, and Rajasthan on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, then eastwards across Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and beyond. A few rain-bearing clouds blowing from the Caspian Sea evaporated by the time they reached the Himalayan foothills.

The early heatwave scorched the plains of Pakistan, including megapolis Karachi, reminding residents of 2015 when at least 1,200 people died due to severe heat in Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital. Hot winds from the desert pushed the sea breeze away from the coast.

In what many called a spring-less year, 2022’s winter suddenly transformed into scorching summer when Pakistan experienced an unprecedented heatwave in March. An advisory issued by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) on 15 March warned that day temperatures would remain unusually high in most parts of the country during this period. As forecast, record-breaking temperatures were recorded in some cities. Shaheed Benazirabad in Sindh recorded temperatures of 45.5C on 27 and 28 March.

According to a second PMD warning issued for the first week of April, daytime temperatures were expected to remain 9-11C above normal in Sindh, South Punjab, and parts of Baluchistan, and 8-10C above normal in northern Punjab, Islamabad, and even in the mountains.

Local media reported that the early heatwave has led to more fires on farms in Pakistan as well as India, just as the winter wheat crop is ready to be harvested. Authorities in Pakistan are also worried about increased evaporation from water reservoirs in a country already facing severe water stress.

If heatwaves were to be mapped, Jacobabad, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Hyderabad, and Karachi would emerge as red dots. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that Pakistan will likely face longer and more intense heatwaves as a consequence of climate change, even if global temperatures rise by only 1.5 or 2C.




by Daily News Sri Lanka

, Local, ,

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post