New Delhi: The February that just passed was the hottest on record in India since 1901, as per the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The IMD has also warned of heat wave conditions on March 8 and 9 in some districts in Goa and Maharashtra, along the Konkan coast.
As March unfolds, the IMD predicts that it’s only going to get hotter in the country. There will be a higher possibility for the occurrence of heat waves, and India will need to prepare for this, it said. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already written to states to take adequate measures to prepare for heatwave conditions.
Hottest February since 1901
The month that just passed was India’s hottest February since 1901, the IMD said.
“The average maximum, average minimum and mean temperature for the country as a whole during February 2023 are 29.66° C, 16.37° C and 23.01° C respectively, against the normal of 27.80° C, 15.49° C and 21.65° C based on period 1981-2010,” the IMD said in a statement on March 3.
The average maximum temperature – at 29.66°C – is the highest it has ever been in February since 1901, surpassing the average maximum temperature (of 29.48°C) for the year 2016.
India will need to brace for more heat – including higher chances of heatwaves – the IMD said in another press release on February 28. According to the IMD, a heatwave is said to occur when the average maximum temperature is 4.5-6.4º C above the long-term average (or above 40º C in the plains, 30º C in hilly areas, or 37º C in coastal areas).
Both monthly maximum and minimum temperatures are likely to be above normal in March. The upcoming hot weather season this year – ie., March to May – is likely to witness above normal maximum temperatures over most parts of northeast India, east and central India and some parts of northwest India, the IMD release said. During these months, most parts of the country – except south peninsular India – will “very likely” witness above normal minimum temperatures too, it said. The month of March is likely to be warmer than usual: monthly maximum temperatures are likely to be above normal over most parts of the country except peninsular India.
Many regions in central and northwest India will also witness an “enhanced probability” of the occurrence of heat waves between March and May this year, the release added.
On February 28, the Ministry of Family Health and Welfare also wrote to all states and union territories, requesting them to take cognizance of the IMD’s prediction for the higher-than-normal temperature conditions in March. It advised that the states circulate the National Action Plan on Heat Related Illnesses among all their districts so that health authorities can prepare for ways to address and manage the impacts of heat on people, and maintain records of it.
The document, prepared by the National Programme on Climate Change and Human Health (NPCCHH), the National Health Mission and the National Centre for Disease Control in July 2021, details what heat waves and heat-related illnesses are, and specifies the ways that state authorities can deal with them. From March 1, daily surveillance on heat-related illnesses will be conducted via the Integrated Health Information Platform in all states and districts under the NPCCHH, the advisory said. The daily heat alerts shared by the NPCCHH, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Health Ministry will have to be shared at the district and health facility levels; state, district and city health departments will have to ensure that the heat action plans are implemented effectively. The Ministry also shared the Do’s and Don’ts Public Health Advisory prepared by the NCDC with the states and UTs along with its advisory.
Apart from the health hazards that the heat waves could cause, experts also expect the conditions to impact agriculture, including India’s wheat crop yields. Last year, heatwave conditions in India also caused a surge in power demand. Scientists with the World Weather Attribution found that climate change made heatwaves 30 times more likely in India and Pakistan.
“Heat wave impacts could be on health, agriculture & Energy,” tweeted Madhavan Rajeevan, former Secretary, the Ministry of Earth Sciences. “People with pre-existing cardiac, diabetic & asthma problems suffer more. Simple measures like re-scheduling working hrs, personal care etc could save people. We have good science, which should help us in saving people (sic).”
Heatwave warning along the Konkan coast
The IMD has also released a ‘watch’ warning or yellow alert (when heatwave conditions at isolated pockets persist for two days) for heatwave conditions in a few districts in Goa and Maharashtra on March 8 and 9. The districts listed are Mumbai Suburban, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra and North Goa and South Goa in Goa.
As per this categorisation of heat waves, such areas will witness moderate temperatures and heat is tolerable for the general public but a moderate health concern for vulnerable people such as infants, the elderly and people with chronic diseases. During such times, the IMD suggests that people avoid heat exposure, wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose, cotton clothes and use a cloth, hat or umbrella to cover their heads.
The most recent heatwave update released by the IMD on March 7 found that the maximum temperatures in some places including Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan, Muzaffarabad, and Konkan and Goa were markedly above normal (5.1°C or more).