Average temperatures during the monsoon and winter seasons in India are getting hot at a faster rate than its summer, a trend that could worsen with increasing climate change.
At the all-India level, the monsoon season that runs from June-September has been 0.3-0.4 degree Celsius hotter than the summers over the last decade, according to an analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment. “With time, monsoon is getting even hotter.”
It’s not just monsoons though. Between 2012 and 2022, the post-monsoon and winter seasons were 0.73 degree Celsius and 0.68 degree Celsius hotter than India’s long-term average.
The summer, too, has gotten 0.49 degree Celsius hotter than the normal baseline. However, its rise is slower than that of all other seasons.
The findings underscore the extreme heat risk that India and other South Asian countries face due to the worsening climate crisis.
Besides being a huge health hazard, extreme heat will have major economic consequences for India.
The International Labour Organization estimates 3.4 crore full-time jobs to be lost by 2030 due to heat stress. And as it gets hotter, work hours worth roughly 2.5-4.5% of GDP could be lost, according to McKinsey Global Institute.
India’s central bank itself has warned of reduction in trade and economic activity due to rising mercury.
“This is a very disturbing trend as policy preparedness to mitigate rising heat due to climate change is nearly absent in India,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, CSE. “This requires urgent time-bound mitigation.”
While India as a whole has gotten hotter, the northwest region has seen nearly twice as much warming as the rest of the country. This year, the average maximum temperatures for northwestern states were 4 degree Celsius above the normal level, CSE’s report said.
Another trend noted is that this year mega cities were much hotter than the larger region around them. Seasonal average temperatures of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad were 1-2 degree Celsius higher than the all-India average. And they were 2.5-3.8 degree Celsius hotter than the northwestern states.
Higher heat is generated from cities mainly due to human activities, excessive concrete surfaces and waste generation. This extra heat should dissipate after sunset. However, due to pollution and continued generation of waste heat, the cities fail to cool down leading to warmer conditions compared to rural areas, it said.
“In this climate-constrained world, heat stress is expected to worsen,” Roychowdhury said. “This will require strategic interventions to reduce heat island effects in cities by conserving and expanding urban greens/forests and water bodies, adopt architectural design guidelines for the built environment to reduce heat load on built structures, and contain concretisation of surface areas.”