A couple of days ago India’s leading English daily – The Times of India’s headline screamed that the country was in the grips of second deadliest heat wave.
Overall it has claimed more than 2300 lives, mostly in the southern states of Andhra and Telengana. Globally it is the 5th deadliest heat wave with all the five falling in the last one and a half decades.
These figures, maintained in the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), Brussels, Belgium, point towards a growing trend which is hard to ignore.
Off the 10 deadliest heat waves in the last one century 6 have been witnessed in the past decade alone. Even the three (US, 1980, Greece 1987 and India 1998) were all part of the gradual warming of the globe that gained momentum from 1975 onwards.
The 1936 US-Canada, heat wave is the only exception. Not only the incidence of chronic heat waves have increased, their geography has shown a marked expansion and the impact on human life too has been devastating in terms of sheer numbers.
Take the case of all the heat waves that were recorded in the last century. Together they killed a little over 5000 people. These (India, the US plains and Greece) areas have traditionally been places which experience high temperatures during summers.
However, the new century has witnessed a new phenomenon where heat waves are hitting areas hitherto known for their cool climes. Heat wave in Europe (2003) is its biggest and deadliest example till date. It killed more than 71000 and in a repeat killed 3400 in 2006.
In 2010 it struck in the far north in the humid continental climate zones of Russia and claimed 55000 lives. It also led to raging forest fires that destroyed millions of hectares of forest land.
Moscow which is famed for its cold weather experienced a temperature of 38.2 degree on July 29, 2010. This was its hottest day ever in 130 years since record were being maintained. The spell of temperature in access of 30 degree lasted for a whopping 33 consecutive days.
Even this year the northern most state of the US, Alaska, a sub arctic area, has experienced a temperature of 32 degrees centigrade.
Not only the temperatures are rising but the beautiful spring seasons are shrinking too. In Delhi the spring season is now a short whiff and temperatures start soaring almost immediately as the winters ebb.
All this points towards a logical conclusion — the world is warming and warming fast. Those who still use the language of future tense while talking about climate change are living in fool’s paradise.
It is here knocking at our doors and showing us a glimpse of what is in store for the future.
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