Spring has brought remarkably extreme heat to India and Pakistan this year. Unusually extensive heatwaves have followed one after another since March and are continuing well into May. The situation presents a conundrum for rapid studies of the role of climate change in this event, as we can’t yet put an end date on it. Nevertheless, a pair of studies have looked into the influence of the climate on March and April’s heat.
Daily and monthly temperature records have been broken in many areas. Thermometers have hit temperatures as high as 120°F (49°C), and the heat has been accompanied by abnormally dry weather. Record-breaking heatwaves often coincide with drought, as the dry ground heats up even more without the cooling effect of evaporation. However, the lower humidity has reduced the heat’s threat to human health, though at least 90 deaths have been reported so far, and that number is expected to rise.
Working outdoors has been extremely challenging, and the impacts of the slowdown have added up as the heat drags on. The effect on agriculture has been significant, with wheat yield losses already estimated at 10–35 percent in areas of northern India, for example. With Ukrainian exports down because of war, India had previously been planning to increase its own exports but instead instituted an export ban this month.