Even by Indian standards the temperature has been extreme in recent days.
Even at the best of times much of India is baked in scorching sunshine, sending locals in search of cooling shade and constant refreshments.
Yet even by Indian standards the temperature has been extreme. Early summer has brought unrelenting heatwaves to northern India where the mercury has hovered around 50 degrees Celsius and even passed it in places like the city of Churu in the state of Rajasthan. Elsewhere in Rajasthan too many cities have recorded temperatures above 47 Celsius.
Several people have died of heatstroke as local authorities have issued a red alert warning in New Delhi, where the mercury shot up to 45 Celsius and beyond.
“We see around 300 patients in the medicine out-patient clinics every day at Safdarjung; 25 to 30 of them are coming in with heat related illnesses,” Dr. BK Tripathi, head of the Department of Medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, was quoted as saying by The Hindustan Times. “Most of them come in with fever, cramps, and vomiting and can be treated at the clinic. But some require hospitalisation to recuperate.”
Even in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, where many wealthy Indians spend their summers to escape the summer heat, temperatures reached 44.9 Celsius in some areas.
Much of India is hot all year round so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the current heatwave. Or should we? Even in countries like Japan, which isn’t known for hot weather, abnormal heatwaves are increasingly common.
Last week two people died and some 600 were hospitalized in Japan with heatstroke-like symptoms because of the heatwave that has gripped the country. In the coastal town of Saroma on the island of Hokkaido temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius.
Last summer more than 1,000 people died in Japan because of prolonged record-breaking heat that saw temperatures soar to 42 degrees Celsius last July. According to a new study by the Meteorological Society of Japan, such deadly heatwaves would not be possible without the manifest effects of climate change.
“Under [a] climate without global warming [scenario],” the authors argue, “the event probability [of such an extreme heatwave] reduced to almost zero. That is [to say], the last-year event could not have happened without global warming.”
Such findings are in line with measurements that show that temperatures in previous years were among the hottest on record with a clear upward trajectory in temperature rises worldwide.