New study forecasts high chance of record-breaking heat and humidity in India in the coming months

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New study forecasts high chance of record-breaking heat and humidity in India in the coming months
India and other tropical nations are bracing for exceptionally high temperatures and humidity levels, as indicated by a recent study. This study, which analysed heat and humidity extremes spanning 45 years, warns of a 70% likelihood of unprecedented heatwaves and humidity levels in tropical regions, including India. The concerning forecast is attributed to the interaction between El Niño and global warming.
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El Niño, characterised by warmer-than-average sea temperatures in the Pacific, influences weather patterns worldwide. During these events, heat and moisture are injected into the upper atmosphere, elevating temperatures and humidity in tropical areas like India. The study suggests that the peak of these upper-level temperatures typically occurs five months after the El Niño peak. The recent occurrence of a Super El Niño in December 2023 has already impacted winter and forthcoming summer seasons, but its full effect is anticipated in the upcoming summer months.

The projected rise in wet bulb temperatures to 26.2°C carries a 68% chance of breaking existing records. Wet bulb temperature, factoring in heat and humidity alongside evaporation's cooling effect, is crucial in gauging human discomfort and assessing heat-related risks. Tropical regions with wet bulb temperatures exceeding 30°C can pose severe health risks, particularly to vulnerable groups.

Northern India, known for its humid heat stress, faces a 50% likelihood of record-breaking heat and humidity this summer. Similarly, the Sahel region in Africa also faces heightened risks, with a 35% chance of record humid heat. While natural occurrences like volcanic eruptions or shifts to cooler La Niña conditions may influence predictions, the study underscores the importance of long-term planning to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat events aggravated by climate change and El Niño.

Proactive measures such as enhancing heatwave early warning systems, upgrading infrastructure, and implementing public health initiatives are vital for bolstering resilience in the face of climate-related challenges.

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The findings of this research have been published in Geophysical Research Letters and can be accessed here.
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