By Disha Shetty
July 2019 was the hottest July ever in recorded Indian meteorological history, and 65.12% of India’s population was exposed to temperatures of over 40 deg C between May and June, 2019, the most widespread over four years, according to a new analysis.
In 2016, 59.32% of India’s population faced a heatwave, the number rose to 61.4% in 2017 and fell to 52.94% in 2018, according to an analysis done for IndiaSpend by Raj Bhagat Palanichamy, an earth observation expert at the World Resource Institute (WRI) in India.
It was only in 2016 that satellite data improved enough to yield such a detailed analysis, according to Palanichamy. But 2015 saw the worst heatwave in India since 1992, striking areas from Delhi to Telangana and killing 2,081 people. It was the fifth deadliest in world history.
On June 25, 2019, temperatures were as much as 5.1 deg C above normal in parts of Jharkhand, Assam and Meghalaya, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) which classified this as “markedly above normal”. Temperatures were 3.1 deg C above normal in the sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim or, as IMD put it, “appreciably above normal”.
This year 37% of the population was exposed to air temperature of over 40 deg C for 10 hours or more a day, according to the analysis by Palanichamy of WRI for IndiaSpend, highest in the past four years. In 2016, this number stood at 31.79%, rising to 34.19% in 2017 and falling to 27.42% in 2018.
Heatwaves also bring down productivity, according to initial results from an ongoing India-centric study at the Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chicago. Productivity declines by 2-4% with every deg C rise in temperature.