New Delhi: The 2022 heatwave was unprecedented and the most intense in the last 70 years, severely affecting millions of people in South Asia, according to new research from India. Such heatwaves are expected to increase in the near future, enhancing heat accumulation in the region and threatening food, water and energy security in the region, the study from institutes including IIT-Gandhinagar and IIT-Jodhpur, said. South Asia faced five continuous heatwave spells that lasted about 35 days during late February and April 2022, affecting a large part of the region.
The heatwave lasted for a longer duration and had more spells than the historical heatwave events, compared to the historical heatwave events during 1950-2021, the study published in Environmental Research Letters said.
Exceptional heating with more than 3.9 degrees Celsius rise in maximum temperature was experienced by majority region of South Asia, which includes countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, along with India, the study found after analysing observational datasets from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US, and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts Reanalysis version 5 (ERA5).
The study projected an increase in frequency of mega heatwave, more severe than that of 2022, in a warming planet under all types of emissions scenario.
Deficits in soil moisture was observed over Pakistan due to an intense prolonged temperature anomaly during March and April 2022, causing several wildfires in the region, the study found after analysing satellite-based soil moisture and normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) for the period 1982-2022.
The heatwave spells also negatively impacted the vegetation and crop yield in Punjab and Haryana, primary food-producing states in the region, the study said.
The study projects 2030 to be the year when mega heatwaves start to emerge under all types of emissions scenarios.
The study findings could be used to develop a more resilient system for energy, water, and food availability in the region for addressing the severe challenges posed by such intense and heatwaves in the future warming climate, it said.
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