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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Heatwave in India breaks records, still worsening

The record-breaking heatwave in India and Pakistan is gripping other parts of South and Central Asia as well.

Heatwave in India

An unprecedented heatwave in South Asia this month (April 2022) is bringing dangerously high temperatures to over a billion people. Both India and Pakistan are being hit the hardest with widespread record-breaking temperatures above 105 degrees F (40 degrees C). Conditions are expected to worsen this week in those regions, where temperatures approaching 113 degrees F (45 degrees C) are possible.

The heatwave weather began in late March for northern India and Pakistan, and spread into the first weeks of April. Although heatwaves are not uncommon in this region during the pre-monsoon season from April to June, residents and meteorologists have noted that this heatwave was the earliest they could remember.

With no relief in sight, some observers are suggesting this heatwave pattern might become one of the longest-lasting in recent decades. Some are calling this year the year without a spring.

The average temperature in India in March 2022 was about 92 degrees F (33 degrees C), the warmest March ever recorded since records began in 1902.

More heat for coming weeks

Forecast models indicate that parts of Pakistan and northwestern India could reach temperatures near 120 degrees F (50 degrees C) on Thursday and Friday. Major cities such as Delhi and Lahore are forecast to reach 113 degrees F (45 degrees C). These temperatures are 18 degrees F (10 degrees C) warmer than the normal high temperatures for April, and would approach the all-time record temperatures for the month. Temperatures in major metropolitan areas can be further exasperated by the urban heat island effect, increasing local temperatures a few degrees higher than the surrounding countryside.

Due to these forecasts, heat wave warnings were issued for 10 major cities in India. Some regional educational systems have shut down all schools for the next five days.

And there’s a rainfall deficit

In addition to the heat, a significant rainfall deficit has also been recorded in the pre-monsoon season since early March. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, many Indian regions are experiencing a 99% deficit in normal rainfall amounts.

Concerns are growing about the potential for regional food shortages if the lack of rainfall continues.

Unusually high temperatures also spread north and east through Asia. Temperatures above 95 degrees F (35 C) were recorded in both China and Taiwan. South Korea measured temperatures around 86 degrees F (30 C) earlier this month, coming close to nationwide records for the month of April.

Technically, the heat hasn’t been recorded as one continuous heatwave since the beginning of March. Still, this spring will likely be one of the warmest two-month periods on record for South Asia.

The role of the jet stream

Heat waves develop under high pressure systems that can form south of the jet stream. In Eastern Asia, a stubborn “ridge” in the jet stream has remained persistent since early March, allowing the high pressure system over the region to become unusually strong. This traps the atmosphere in a heat dome that can last for days or even weeks. Relief usually comes in the form of rainfall or a cold front.

Monsoon season is not expected to begin until June or July for much of the region. So it’s possible the heat in South Asia will continue into the summer months.

Heatwaves are a “hidden” type of severe weather according to the World Health Organization. They are often overlooked as a dangerous type of weather that can kill. Whether through strained power grids or reductions in water availability, heatwaves hey can quietly kill thousands of people living in vulnerable situations.

In 2015, a similar heatwave (hot enough to melt roads) killed over 500 people in New Delhi alone. The elderly or sick are the most likely to be impacted, but everyone outdoors or without air conditioning availability are at risk from extreme temperatures.

Bottom line: An unprecedented heatwave in India and Pakistan this month is bringing dangerously high temperatures to over a billion people. More heat is expected.

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