Friday, May 22, 2009

Heat waves in India may signal changing climate

People and Planet: India is being hit by more intense and longer heat waves that are taking a higher toll than usual on lives and the environment, says a report in the latest issue of Down to Earth magazine. Could this be another signal that climate change is aleady impacting the country, it asks.

In March-April, over 70 people reportedly died in Orissa due to sunstroke, with mercury soaring to 46 degree centigrade in April in some cities. The state’s health machinery was caught napping. In West Bengal, the heat wave killed nine. ‘Abnormal’ dry spells and dust storms swamped Guwahati in Assam, while the entire Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh reeled from a severe water stress.

…According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), disturbances in the air circulation pattern over India led to mercury soaring across the country. Circulation of air helps distribute heat over the earth. The cyclonic storm, Bijli, which formed in the Bay of Bengal in mid-April, cut off the cool easterly winds blowing in from the Bay of Bengal. To add to it, an anticyclone hovering around Rajasthan blew hot winds from north–west to central and western India.

…The IMD also points to the lack of winter cyclones that form in Bay of Bengal and provide rains to the north-east, as a reason. The Down To Earth report quotes A K Srivastava, a scientist at the department’s Pune centre: “Tropical cyclones in the peak cyclone months of May and November have increased, while those occurring in the rest of the year have decreased.”

A picture of Cyclonic Storm Bijli showing its eye east of the deep convection. India to the west and Bay of Bengel to the east. From NASA

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