Increasing Heat Waves: Extreme heat events, excessive rainfall, floods, droughts, etc. have become new normals today. Climate is changing at a faster pace, oceans are rising, lands becoming infertile and all because of us, the humans.
One such event which adds to the woes of people in most places around the globe is increasing heat waves. Heat waves are events of abnormally high temperatures prevailing in the summer months.
In India, if temperatures exceeds 40°C in plains and 30°C in hill areas then a heat wave is declared in the region.
Year after year many parts of India, mostly in the Northern plains, Rajasthan, Vidarbha region, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, etc. witness such heat waves.
Temperatures generally exceed 45°C in these regions. Churu, in Rajasthan even reaches 50°C every year. Normal life comes to a halt.
Not only India, Pakistan, Afghanistan but also several European countries, parts of North America also bear the brunt of heat waves.
Summer temperatures in India have always been high but in recent times, these events have become prolonged and paramount. There are several reasons for this, such as, the Urban heat island (UHI) effect. UHI is a metropolitan region or area which is warmer than its surrounding suburban or rural areas. This phenomena takes place due to-
- Urban infrastructure-such as Asphalt roads, buildings, roofs, a motor, concrete which have more heat absorbing and less reflective capacities.
Population and human activities – use of large numbers of air conditioners, cars and other heat releasing electronics and machines.
Absence of greenery– less trees, so less evapotranspiration.
Another reason is global warming which is responsible for increasing global temperatures due to the effect of greenhouse gases, which are released unabated in the atmosphere. In addition to this, loss of water bodies is a cause and also an effect of this kind of climate phenomenon.
Also, El Nino causes drought like conditions in India and subsequent heat waves. In 2015 a sudden halt in the pre-monsoon showers caused record-breaking temperatures in India. One more reason for heat waves is the presence of a high-pressure area above a region which doesn’t let air rise and causes a blanket effect wherein the air keeps getting more and more heated.
Temperate countries like France have witnessed rising events of heat waves in the recent years. Such countries are generally cool and have mild summers therefore people are not adapted to high temperatures and do not have equipment like air conditioners or coolers.
Several people have lost their lives. Animals too, have died. Movement of warm air mass from Africa and also, warm winds sucked by jet streams have been a reason in this case.
Heat waves cause fatigue, exhaustion, stress, cardiovascular diseases in humans and also death after heat stroke. Excessive temperatures cause stress and energy drain which in turn results in reduction in the working capacity of people.
Extreme temperatures lead to the death of animals because of loss of habitat, non-availability of shade and non-accessibility of water. Farmers who depend on livestock suffer because animals become sick or die and also milk production reduces. Crop failure is another outcome of excessive temperatures as crops which are adapted to certain temperatures are exposed to extreme heat.
Crops also fail because all sources of irrigation dry up like lakes, streams or seasonal rivers.
Ground water also doesn’t get replenished because of no rains or unsustainable ill-practices. All of these woes are complemented by loo, delayed or failed monsoons. Even industrial operations stop or cause high risk due to sky-rocketing temperatures which cause heating up of machines. In Churu, whenever temperatures reach 50°C water is poured on roads to keep it warm as asphalt starts melting beyond 50°C. Homeless poor are the main sufferers.
Therefore, heat waves too need to be dealt with like a natural disaster. So, proper resilience measures are required to deal with it. First and foremost, shelter homes for poor, homeless people must be provided with continuous drinking water and food.
Health advisories must be issued on time with measures to be taken like- being hydrated, not going outdoors, etc. Green buildings, roof-top terraces must be encouraged. Urban Heat Island effects must be controlled by making light coloured roads to increase the albedo. Incentives to livestock farmers can be provided in extreme conditions.
Medical facilities must be checked from time to time to curb incidences like Bihar encephalitis deaths. Reclamation of water-bodies, forests must be done. Afforestation and reforestation must be undertaken. Last and not the least, people must adopt sustainable lifestyles because it’s the people’s planet and they have the duty to save it.
AUTHOR:- SURAMYA SHARMA
CATEGORY :- GEOGRAPHY
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