Only a few days after the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) alerted that extreme heat was gripping large parts of India and Pakistan impacting hundreds of millions of people in one of the most densely populated parts of the world, the images of land surface captured by INSAT 3D, Copernicus Sentinel 3 and a NASA satellite indicated that land surface temperature over pockets of northwest India reached 55 degree Celsius and even crossed 60 degree Celsius over some pockets. This unprecedented temperature rise was not even expected by the scientists observing the climate change across the world, that too so soon. As for India, the director-general of India Meteorological Department (IMD) M Mohapatra has said that the data should not be trusted before conducting ground verification. “Satellite observations are taken from 36,000 km away from the surface. They can be misleading if not verified. The record highest land temperature was taken in Rajasthan which was 52.6 degrees Celsius. This data can create fear and panic so we should act responsibly,” he said.
DG IMD’s statement may have some validity on the scale of temperature as indicated by the several satellites, still, the extreme heat conditions are impacting millions of people which has been exacerbated by the electricity and water crisis which were the result of the extreme heatwave conditions. Though the images of satellites indicated the surface temperature, not the air temperature, people, in general, we’re able to withstand it. Even then the atmospheric temperatures in many places in north India were in the range of 40 – 47.2 degrees Celsius, which is considered very high. That is why the Centre has issued advisories to the states to monitor the heatwave conditions and review the health emergency preparedness for any eventualities. This will not work due to the power crisis across the country coupled with several other crises such as the availability of potable water.
IMD had said on April 28 that maximum temperatures reached 43-46 degrees Celsius in widespread areas and the intense heat will continue until May 2. Such information is given every year, along with the subsequent electricity, water, and other crises. However, after a few showers, it is forgotten at the government level along with the need for a comprehensive plan of action. And year after year, we face the same crisis, exacerbating over time. Union Ministry of Earth Sciences has recently issued a document which says that the frequency of warm extremes over India has increased from 1951 to 2015, with accelerated warming trends during the recent 30 years period 1986-2015. A significant warning is observed for the warmest day, warmest night, and coldest night since 1986. The pre-monsoon heatwave frequency, duration, intensity, and areal coverage over India are projected to substantially increase during the twenty-first century. India needs large-scale forestation and implementation of measures against climate change at such an unprecedented speed as the unprecedented level of rising in temperature that has struck the country. The rise in surface temperature could push up the entire atmospheric temperature in a very short time. India must run the race against climate change now to avoid the impending catastrophe.