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04/16/2013

Too hot: Indian city gets early warning system

Ahmedabad
Langur monkeys take food handouts from an Indian pedestrian in Ahmedabad on March 22. (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

It is 35 degrees Celsius in Ahmedabad, India today. That’s not too hot, considering it can go up to a blistering 45 degrees in May and June. But when it does, it does so without any warning.

Not any more.  

A first-of-its-kind “heat action plan” was launched on Tuesday, which will signal an early warning system for residents, provide preparation training to medical and community workers, build public awareness of heat-related risks, and coordinate an inter-agency emergency response efforts when heat waves hit. 

It is the first of its kind for a South Asian city.

The city’s efforts to prepare for future extreme heat events are, in part, a response to the deadly heatwave in May 2010 when temperatures spiked to 46.8 degrees Celsius. Hundreds of people died in the heatwave.

It was the worst heatwave in over 90 years.

“Unbearable temperatures are already having a deadly impact in Ahmedabad, and it’s only going to get worse due to climate change,” Anjali Jaiswal, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s India Initiative, said in a statement.

But Ahmedabad, she said, is rising to the challenge by implementing strategies to help its residents adapt to increasing heat.

Extreme heat can lead to dangerous, even deadly, health consequences, including heat stress and heatstroke. As climate change worsens, extreme heat events are expected to become more frequent and more severe.

Raveena Aulakh is the Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

Comments

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One of the more troubling aspects of global warming is the fact that once the wet- bulb temperature reaches 35C; (i.e 35 at 100% humidity, or 45C at 52% humudity) death, even while naked in the shade and a breeze, occurs quickly. In such conditions, air conditioning or a deep underground bunker become as necessary for life as the artificial atmosphere of a manned spacecraft.

So far, the highest recorded wet-bulb has been 31C - but under the "business as usual" scenarios - such deadly combination of heat and humidity will occur over many parts of India, Arabia, and possibly even ome mid-latitude locations like the US south before the end of the century.

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