This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Heatwave”. The topic “Heatwave” has relevance in the Environment and Disaster Management section for the UPSC CSE exam.

Relevance of Heatwave

For Prelims:

What is a heatwave? 

For Mains:

GS 3: Environment, Disaster Management.

Why heatwave frequency is increasing?

What are the Implications of Heatwaves?

Remedial Measures to be taken?

Why in the news?

Heatwaves warning has been issued in parts of north and central India. With temperatures touching 45 degree Celsius in parts of northwest India on Sunday, the Indian Meteorological Department has issued fresh heatwave warnings over Delhi-NCR and the nearby areas.

What is a heatwave?

A Heatwave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the parts of India. Heat Waves typically occur between March and June.

Heatwaves need not be considered till the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.

When the normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C Heat Wave Departure from normal is 5°C to 6°C, Severe Heat Wave Departure from normal is 7°C or more.

Why heatwave frequency is increasing?

  • Climate Change: One of the primary factors contributing to the more frequent occurrence of heatwaves is climate change. As greenhouse gas concentrations, such as carbon dioxide, continue to rise in the atmosphere, the Earth’s average temperature increases.
  • Amplified Weather Patterns: Climate change can also alter weather patterns, resulting in atmospheric conditions that favor the occurrence of heatwaves.
  • Urban Heat Island Effect: Urban areas with dense buildings, concrete, and asphalt tend to absorb and retain more heat, creating localized heat islands. This effect exacerbates heatwave conditions in urban environments.
  • Land Use Changes: Modifications to the land surface, such as deforestation or urbanization, can affect local climate conditions. These changes can alter surface albedo (reflectivity), disrupt natural cooling processes, and increase the retention of heat.
  • Natural Climate Variability: Alongside long-term climate change, natural climate variability, such as El Niño and La Niña events, can influence the occurrence of heatwaves.


What are the Implications of Heatwaves?

  • Human Health Impact: Heatwaves pose a severe risk to human health. Exposure to extreme heat can lead to heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and dehydration. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children
  • Agricultural and Food Security: Heatwaves can have detrimental effects on agriculture and food security. High temperatures can cause crop failure, reduced crop yields, and damage to livestock. Heat stress on plants can disrupt photosynthesis and lead to water shortages, affecting crop quality and quantity.
  • Water Resources and Drought: Heatwaves exacerbate drought conditions by increasing evaporation rates, reducing water availability, and intensifying water scarcity. 
  • Higher temperatures contribute to the depletion of surface water bodies and groundwater resources, affecting agriculture, ecosystems, and human water supplies.
  • Ecosystem Disruption: Heatwaves can disrupt ecosystems and biodiversity. Increased temperatures and water scarcity can lead to the loss of habitat, reduced biodiversity, and alterations in species distribution.
  • Social and Economic Impacts: Heatwaves can have wide-ranging social and economic impacts. Decreased worker productivity, increased absenteeism, and reduced outdoor economic activities are some of the consequences of extreme heat on economies.


Remedial Measures to be taken?

Mitigating Climate Change:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Promote afforestation and reforestation
  • Support to clean technologies

Adaptation Measures:

  • Enhance urban planning
  • Improve building design
  • Implement early warning systems
  • Provide heatwave relief and cooling centers
  • Enhance public health measures

International Cooperation:

  • Collaborate on climate change initiatives
  • Share knowledge and best practices
  • Provide support to developing nations


Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding heatwaves:

1: Heatwaves are prolonged periods of excessively hot weather, characterized by high temperatures and often accompanied by high humidity.

2: Heatwaves primarily occur due to natural climate variability and are not influenced by human activities.

3: Urban areas are more prone to the urban heat island effect, which exacerbates the intensity and duration of heatwaves.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 Only

(b)1 and 2 Only 

(c)1 and 3 Only

(d) 1, 2, and 3


Q.2 Which of the following statements regarding urban heat island (UHI) is/are correct?

1: UHI refers to the phenomenon where urban areas experience higher temperatures compared to surrounding rural areas due to human activities and urbanization.

2: High concentration of materials such as concrete and asphalt, reduced vegetation cover, and waste heat from buildings and vehicles does not have a significant contribution in UHI effect.

3: UHI can have various negative impacts, including increased energy consumption, heightened heat-related illnesses, reduced air quality, and altered precipitation patterns.

(a)1 and 2 only

(b)1 and 3 only

(c)1 only

(d)3 only


Q.3″Examine the role of mitigation and adaptation strategies in combating the increasing frequency and intensity of heatwaves, highlighting their importance in ensuring resilience and minimizing the socio-economic and environmental consequences.” (15 marks)

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