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Hotter than Ever: Understanding and Combating the Impact of Heat Waves

Every day, we see news about heat waves. Maharashtra declared an early summer vacation, 13 districts in Madhya Pradesh are affected by heat waves, Punjab and Haryana are facing heat waves .Basically, the entire north of India is affected by heat waves. But what are these heat waves? Let’s find out in today’s blog.

Heat waves are extended periods of extremely hot weather that can be dangerous to one's health and even lead to death. Heat waves are becoming more often and severe as a result of climate change. It is important to understand their impact on human health and the ecosystem. Heat waves are typical in India from March to June, and they might extend until July in exceptional cases. Every year, five to six heat wave incidents occur in the country's northern regions. It can affect a large population. Several Indian states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, Gangetic West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat, suffered severe heat wave conditions in 2016.

How Heat Waves are formed ?

Heat Radiation is the predominant mechanism of heat movement during heat waves, but conduction, convection, and other processes also play a role. Heat waves are formed when hot and humid air is trapped under a high pressure system, causing temperatures to rise and stay high for a long time. Factors like urbanization and climate change can make heat waves worse. One of the principal natural causes of heat waves is solar radiation. The sun's energy heats the Earth's surface, raising its temperature. Atmospheric circulation is another component that could contribute to heat waves. Wind patterns can change, trapping hot air and causing temperatures to rise in some areas. Heat waves can also be caused by oceanic changes such as El Nino and La Nina. These occurrences may cause changes in water temperature, which may influence atmospheric conditions. As the world's average temperature rises by 1.5°C, heat waves, and heavy rainfall events become more common and extreme. Marine heat waves, which occur when ocean temperatures are extremely high, can also occur and have major repercussions for marine ecosystems. Understanding the science of heat waves is crucial for reducing their effects .

Health Impacts of Heat Waves:

Heat waves have serious consequences for the environment, economy, culture, and health. Heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and dehydration are a few of the potentially fatal health consequence. Heat waves can intensify droughts and wildfires, negatively impacting agriculture. Falling labor productivity has an adverse economic impact. Increased demand for power, water, and healthcare services is one of the socioeconomic implications.

Reducing Heat Waves impact

Heat waves are a major natural danger that can produce severe symptoms such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, leading to an increase in heat-related deaths. Keeping hydrated, dressing in light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and avoiding outdoor activities during peak heat hours can all help to prevent heat-related diseases. Community initiatives such as building cooling centers, distributing water, and monitoring vulnerable people can also aid in the relief of heat waves. Implementing heat warning systems, enhancing public health response, and giving education and awareness are examples of government efforts that can minimize communities' vulnerability to heat waves. Heatwave reaction methods are critical for anticipating and responding to heat waves. Heatwave response plans include early warning systems, communication strategies, emergency response plans, and public health measures. The PHASE project in India constructed a heat warning system and educated communities about precautionary measures. The program also educated communities by utilizing volunteers and social workers. Prioritizing heat wave preparedness and reaction is crucial for reducing the impact of heat waves on society.

Recent heatwaves in India have highlighted the need of understanding the science behind them. According to a World Meteorological Organization report, climate change has increased the likelihood of heatwaves in India by 30 times. As a result of the large increase in hot days and nights, heatwaves are projected to occur more frequently, earlier, and over a longer period of time. Between 1992 and 2015, heatwaves killed around 22,000 people in India, with experts estimating that the exact figure is likely far higher. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that global temperature rises must be kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below. Improved heatwave prediction models and heat action plans should be the focus of future research. Heatwave awareness must be enhanced, and safeguards for vulnerable groups must be implemented. It is vital to adapt infrastructure and agricultural practices to extreme heat, as well as to create measures to reduce the economic burden of heatwaves. Heatwave research is crucial for saving lives and preparing for climate change.

Author : Snehasish Dash



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