What are the causes and effects of heat waves in India in 2024?

Healthcare News & Updates

Heat waves during the summer have caused increased morbidity and mortality in India, particularly heat waves in Delhi. Heat waves can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, particularly in vulnerable populations. These extreme temperatures also impact crops, livestock, and the environment, worsening air pollution.

Apr 27
Dr Dhaval Kotadiya
Medical Administrator, BT Savani Kidney Hospital, Rajkot
causes and effects of heat waves in India

The causes of heat waves in India are complex, including climate change, urbanization, and air pollution. As India continues to experience heat waves in 2024, it's essential to take action to mitigate the impact of heat waves.


Heat waves in India in 2024 are a growing concern for disaster management. The rising number of heat wave-related deaths highlights the need to develop innovative methods to control summer-time losses. By taking action now, communities can prevent the worst impacts of heat waves and protect the health and well-being of citizens.


What is Heat Wave?

heat wave is a period of very hot weather that lasts for a long time. There is no definition for a heat wave, but it is generally considered a prolonged period of excessive heat. The Indian Meteorological Department has specific criteria to declare a heat wave based on the maximum temperature of a station.

Heat waves in India are a big problem because they can cause heat stress, which is dangerous for human health. 


There's been an increase of 0.5–0.9°C in summer temperatures across Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan since 1990. 

Winter temperatures in approximately 54% of India's districts have experienced a comparable increase.


Climate change is also making the problem worse. Between 2021 and 2050, temperature is expected to increase by 2-3.5°C in 100 districts and by 1.5-2°C in around 455 districts. This leads to an urban heat island effect where temperatures in cities are much higher than in rural areas.


Causes of Heat Waves

There are multiple reasons why heat waves occur in India, and they are primarily caused by a combination of meteorological, geographical, and human factors. Some of the significant contributors to heat waves in India include:


  • Meteorological Factors: Heat waves in India can be caused by 

meteorological factors include high-pressure systems over northwestern India, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. This creates a stagnant air mass that traps hot and dry air, leading to higher temperatures. 


The climate can also be affected by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which can contribute to the occurrence of heat waves.


  • Geographical Factors: India's position near the equator results in 

high levels of solar radiation all year round, especially during the summer season. The country's terrain, which includes deserts, semi-arid areas, and high-altitude regions, can also worsen the conditions of heat waves.


  • Human Factors: Human activities like urbanization, deforestation, 

and poverty can increase temperatures and create heat island effects, making vulnerable populations more susceptible to heat-related illnesses due to the lack of access to cooling and drinking water, and inadequate public health infrastructure.


Effect of Heat Waves

Heat waves can have significant impacts on human health, the environment, and infrastructure. They are happening more often and being worse because of climate change. Here are some impacts of heat waves:


  • Health impacts: Heat waves can cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke, dehydration, and respiratory problems. They can worsen existing health conditions such as heart disease and asthma. The elderly, homeless, and low-income communities are more vulnerable to the health impacts of heat waves.


  • Environmental impacts: Heat waves can cause droughts, wildfires, and other environmental disasters. They can also lead to the spread of disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitoes and ticks.


  • Economic impacts: Heat waves can have significant economic impacts, including damage to crops, livestock, and infrastructure such as roads and buildings. They can also lead to increased demand for energy, which can strain power grids and increase energy costs.


  • Social Impacts: Heat waves can have social impacts, such as increased crime rates, social unrest, and migration. Populations that are vulnerable are at a higher risk of being affected.


  • Mortality: Heatwaves can be deadly, with mortality rates rapidly increasing during extreme heatwaves. The elderly are at higher risk, and hospital admissions due to excessive heat can occur.


  • Power Breakdown: Heatwaves can cause power breakdowns due to excessive usage of air conditioners, leading to high electricity consumption and outages.


To mitigate the effects of heat waves, it is important to implement heat warning systems, improve infrastructure resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone can take steps to protect themselves during heat waves, such as staying hydrated, avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day, and using air conditioning or fans to cool down.


Mitigating Strategies for Heatwaves in India

1. Urban Greening: Increase the density and area of urban forests and natural landscapes, such as trees, parks, and vegetation to reduce urban heat.


2. Infrastructure Improvement: Use permeable materials in civic infrastructure and encourage cleaner cooking fuels to reduce indoor air pollution and heat. Improve public transportation and reduce personal vehicle usage to reduce heat waves.


3. Waste Management: Reduce landfill size, segregate waste, and manage solid waste at the source to reduce methane production and fires that worsen urban heat.


4. Building Design: Use passive cooling techniques like natural ventilation and shading, high-albedo roofs, and pavements, and promote green and cool roofs.


5. Promoting Renewable Energy: Use solar and wind energy to reduce the carbon footprint.


6. Public Awareness: Educate people about the risks of heat waves and ways to stay cool.


7. Agricultural Adaptation: Support farmers with resilient farming practices, such as crop diversification, agroforestry, mulching, irrigation systems, and cover cropping.


8. Disaster Management: Develop emergency response plans for heatwaves, including providing cool shelters and medical facilities.


9. Short-Term Solutions: Establish an effective early warning system that can provide timely and accurate information to people at risk.


10. Long-Term Solutions: Take structural infrastructure measures to help communities adapt to extreme heat.


11. Green Transportation: Promote green transportation options like public transport and bicycles to reduce emissions and traffic congestion.


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1. What are the causes and problems of heat waves?

Heat waves are caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures and can lead to a range of problems including dehydration, heat stroke, and even death.


2. How are the heat waves ‌affecting ‌India?

Heat waves are affecting India by causing increased heat-related illnesses and deaths, crop failures, and economic losses.


3. What are the reasons for heat waves in India?

The reasons for heat waves in India include global warming, deforestation, urbanization, and air pollution, among others.


4. Is heat wave a disaster in India?

Heatwave is considered a disaster in India due to the high number of deaths and health impacts it causes each year.


5. Why heat is increasing in India?

There are multiple factors contributing to the increasing heat in India, including climate change, urbanization, and deforestation.