Weatherman signals a nasty summer ahead for India

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director-general, India Meteorological Department (IMD).
Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director-general, India Meteorological Department (IMD).


  • Specifically, the next three months, which coincide with the general elections, are expected to be particularly bad in terms of heatwaves.

NEW DELHI : Climate change will accelerate the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, India’s top weatherman warned, on the backdrop of the country witnessing a far higher number of intensely heavy rainfall and heatwave days, fewer colder days and increasing thunderstorms in recent times.

Specifically, the next three months, which coincide with the general elections, are expected to be particularly bad in terms of heatwaves.

“We are noticing extreme behaviour in weather," India Meteorological Department (IMD) director-general Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said in an interview on Wednesday. “The number of heavy rainfall days is increasing; the number of heatwave days is increasing; the number of colder days is decreasing; and thunderstorms are increasing because of heating or climate change."

March 2024 was reportedly the warmest March on record globally, with an average temperature of 14.14 degree Celsius, surpassing the previous high set in March 2016 by 0.16 degrees. This marked the 10th consecutive month of record warmth year-on-year for respective months. In fact, February 2024 was 1.68 degree Celsius warmer than pre-industrial levels, according to Copernicus Climate Change Service or ECMWF.

On 1 April, IMD had warned that most regions of the country will witness above-normal temperature during April-June, with central and western peninsular regions bearing the brunt. 

IMD also expects to see 10-20 days of heatwave in different parts of the country in these three months against a normal four to eight days.

Significantly, this period will see the Indian electorate brave the elements to participate in the seven-phase general elections, which starts on 19 April and ends 1 June, with results scheduled to be declared on 4 June.

Mohapatra said the weather department has begun issuing two weather bulletins every day instead of the usual one bulletin. “We are providing heatwave information to all ministries daily. NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) has a heat action plan, so has state governments. Action will be taken as per the heat action plan," he added.

Averring that future impact depends on the mechanisms being adopted for adaptation and mitigation, Mohapatra forecast that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will continue to increase if “we go as usual" and keep increasing the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Climate change experts say that severe weather conditions comprise a long-term trend over the past 20 years. The most evident impact of climate change is shifting in seasons, extreme and shorter winter, prolonged summer and delayed monsoon, among others. According to them, climate change is due to rapid urbanisation and loss of green and it may slow economic growth.

Chandra Bhushan, CEO of International Forum for Environment, Sustainability & Technology, pointed out that the most-affected season is spring, which has become extremely unstable to the extent of practically vanishing in some years.

“Since we had heatwaves in February this year, the spring season was good in Delhi; last year, it wasn't the case," said Bhushan. “Winter is becoming shorter and extreme. Summer is getting prolonged, and you have a high heat wave which can start as early as end of January and continue till June-July-August, even September."

Bhushan added that things are becoming worse, with monsoon now coming one month late compared to 30 years ago. “Monsoon now comes at the end of June, which used to be the beginning of June," he said. “It has been a progressive worsening of these trends in the last four decades, and climate change is the single most important factor.

On this year’s monsoon, Mohapatra said IMD will issue the 2024 monsoon forecast by mid-April and the onset of monsoon by mid-May.

About El Nino and La Nina conditions, Mohapatra reiterated that El Nino is moderating, and it will become neutral by the end of July; thereafter, the La Nina phenomenon will emerge in the second half of the monsoon season (August-September), which may bring above-normal rainfall.

El Nino, Spanish for "little boy," is a climatic pattern marked by elevated sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. This phenomenon tends to emerge every two to seven years and can last from nine to 12 months, affecting weather conditions globally.

La Nina, or "little girl" in Spanish, is characterized by the cooling of sea surface temperatures in the same regions. Occurring roughly every three to five years, La Nina can sometimes happen in consecutive years, bringing about increased rainfall and distinct weather patterns.

Meanwhile, Bhushan also blamed localized issues for contributing to climate change, including reduction in green cover, removal of water bodies, concretization of cities, among others.

“We are already losing close to 5-6% of our GDP every year because of a combination of extreme weather events and air pollution," said Bhushan, adding that in future heatwaves alone could lead to loss of close to 7-8% of GDP. “So, if you start losing 10-15% of your GDP, say by 2025 then basically, you're not growing."

Pointing out that mitigation is the best answer for climate change, Bhushan said that the world—including India, the US and Europe—needs to limit temperature rise to less than 2-3 degrees by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “At the local level, urbanization, building design, energy consumption, water conservation, and revisualization of cities are required. This is not how our cities should look like," he added.

Mohapatra explained that climate changes slowly while weather varies rapidly. “There is blue sky now; after half an hour there could be thunderstorm; it is because of convection," he said. “In a hot atmosphere, the moisture available in the land or ocean gets evaporated. The evaporation leads to water vapour moving off. Water vapour weight is less compared to dry air, and it goes up because heating is also instable in the atmosphere. So, it condenses, cloud fogs. Usually, heating is maximum during daytime, towards noon. The temperature hits maximum around 2-2:30 pm. Therefore, heating becomes around that time and thunderstorms take place more during the afternoon, not in the morning. In the case of hilly areas, for example Jammu & Kashmir, thunderstorms occur at night or early morning because of the orographically interaction."


Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.