Oppressive Heat Waves Strike India, Leaving More Than a Billion People Sweltering

April 27, 2022

The hottest March in India on record was followed by more waves of oppressive heat in April, leaving more than a billion people sweltering and the monsoon season still weeks away.

A severe heatwave in mid- and late April 2022 brought temperatures 4.5 to 8.5°C (8 to 15°F) above average in east, central, and northwest India—just weeks after the country recorded its hottest March since the country’s meteorological department began keeping records more than 120 years ago.

On April 27, 2022, the highest temperature in the country, 45.9°C (114.6°F), was recorded in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. The day before, a high of 45.1°C (113.2°F) was reported at Barmer in West Rajasthan in the northwest, according to the India Meteorological Department. Many other localities recorded temperatures of 42-44°C (108-111°F).

The map at the top of this article shows modeled air temperatures on April 27, 2022. It was derived from the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model and represents air temperatures at 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) above the ground.

The effects of the heatwave include heat-related illnesses, poor air quality, little rainfall, and reduced crop yields. Additionally, power consumption has spiked and coal inventories have dropped, leaving the country with its worst electricity shortage in more than six years. In the northern regions of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, mountain snow has been rapidly melting. In addition, more than 300 large wildfires were burning around the country on April 27, according to the Forest Survey of India. Nearly a third of those were in the state of Uttarakhand.

A bulge in the jet stream and a dome of high pressure have kept an unseasonably warm, dry air mass parked over the country, according to meteorologists. The heatwave conditions were expected to intensify in the next few days and persist for at least another week.

Heatwaves are common in India in the spring and early summer, especially in May, which is typically the hottest month. But they are often relieved by the onset of the monsoon season from late May through September. The number of spring heatwaves has been increasing, according to India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences, as 12 of the country’s 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 2006. A June 2015 heatwave killed more than 2,000 people.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC.

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  • Clyde Spencer

    “… brought temperatures 4.5 to 8.5°C (8 to 15°F) above average in east, central, and northwest India …”

    Is this “average” the annual, seasonal, monthly, daily high, or what? Throwing out numbers without qualifiers or context doesn’t instill confidence in the report.

    This happens so frequently in news reports about climatology that it is difficult to write it off to simple incompetence. It starts to look like it is purposely an attempt to use scary numbers and avoid being accused of lying. This leads to skepticism among those who are capable of thinking.

    “Additionally, power consumption has spiked and coal inventories have dropped, leaving the country with its worst electricity shortage in more than six years.”

    This statement implies that a comparable heat wave occurred within the last six years.

    One should keep in mind that 120 years ago there weren’t any temperature models. People had to rely on what thermometers actually reported.

    This ‘news’ is, characteristically, less than objective in the way it is presented.

  • Clyde Spencer

    “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun.”
    – Indian Proverb https://www.quotes.net/authors/Indian+Proverb

    Variously attributed to Noel Coward, or Rudyard Kipling of Gunga Din fame; however, considering that Kipling was born in India, he had probably heard the deprecating proverb growing up. What it makes clear is that enervating heat is to be expected in India. It is doubtful that today is worse than during or before British colonial times.