According to India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Heat Waves are defined as periods of abnormally high temperatures and usually occur between March and June.
May is India’s hottest month, with thermometers reaching a maximum of 104F (41C) in New Delhi.
The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has given the following criteria for Heat Waves :
Heat Wave need not be considered till maximum temperature of a station reaches atleast 40C for Plains and at least 30C for Hilly regions
When normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40C Heat Wave Departure from normal is 5C to 6C Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 7C or more
When normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40C Heat Wave Departure from normal is 4C to 5C Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 6C or more
When actual maximum temperature remains 45C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, heat waves should be declared. Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becomingly increasingly frequent globally due to climate change. India too is feeling the impact of climate change in terms of increased instances of heat waves which are more intense in nature with each passing year, and have a devastating impact on human health thereby increasing the number of heat wave casualties.
Longer, more severe heat waves are becomingly increasingly frequent globally.
Intense heat can cause cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke.
Thousands of people died across India during heat waves in 2002 and 2003.
In 2010, nearly 300 people were killed by intense temperatures, according to media reports from the time.
In May 2015, the death toll in the heat wave sweeping India has passed 1,000, with temperatures nearing 122F (50C) in some areas.
The recent heat wave has killed more than 1,000 people in India as temperatures nearing 122F (50C) in some areas.
Most deaths have taken place in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where at least 1,118 people have died since last week.
At least 24 people have died from the heat in West Bengal and Orissa.
Temperatures are likely to drop in some parts over the coming days.
Hospitals are on alert to treat heatstroke patients and authorities have advised people to stay indoors.
Heat wave conditions have been prevailing in the two worst-affected southern Indian states since mid-April, but most of the deaths have happened in the past week.
In the worst-hit state of Andhra Pradesh, where temperatures climbed to 47C on May 25, 852 people have died.
“The state government has taken up education programs through television and other media to tell people not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures,” news agency AFP quoted P Tulsi Rani, special commissioner for disaster management in the state, as saying.
“We have also requested NGOs and government organizations to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns,” P Tulsi Rani added.
In neighboring Telangana state, 266 people have died in the last week as temperatures hit 118F (48C) over the weekend.
Temperatures fell slightly in Telangana on May 26, and are expected to start dropping in Andhra Pradesh by the end of the week.
The weather is likely to cool further when the summer monsoon begins at the end of the month.
The Indian capital, Delhi, is enduring a week of sweltering heat as the maximum temperature in the city hit a two-year high of 114F (45.5C) on May 25.
The meteorological department has issued a warning for Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh states saying that maximum temperatures there would remain above 113F (45C).
Meteorological officials said the heat wave was due to a lack of rain.
There are fears that some of the worst-affected states could be hit by drought before the monsoon rains arrive.
The monsoon is expected to hit the southern state of Kerala towards the end of this month before sweeping across India.
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