India Issues Heat Wave Alert as Delhi Posts Record High Temperature

NEW DELHI – India’s weather department issued a red alert on Wednesday for several parts of the country’s northwest, warning of a severe heat wave after parts of the capital, Delhi, recorded their highest temperature ever, reaching almost 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) defines a red alert as indicating a “very high likelihood” of heat illness and heat stroke, necessitating “extreme care” for vulnerable populations. This alert follows an extended period of unusually high temperatures across India, with the IMD predicting that “heat wave to severe heat wave” conditions would persist in several regions, including the capital, through Wednesday.

The IMD declares a heat wave when the maximum temperature is 4.5 to 6.4 degrees Celsius higher than usual, and a severe heat wave when the maximum temperature is 6.5 degrees Celsius or more above normal. Local weather stations in Delhi’s Mungeshpur and Narela neighborhoods recorded temperatures of 49.9 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, setting an all-time record for the city and standing 9 degrees Celsius above normal.

Delhi’s local government has also restricted water supply due to the extreme heat, as water levels in the Yamuna River, the city’s main water source, have dropped significantly. Typically, Delhi does not have an uninterrupted water supply, but the government has further limited access, with areas receiving water twice daily now facing additional restrictions.

“I appeal to all residents to use water very carefully, whether there is a water problem in your area or not,” stated Atishi, the Water Minister of Delhi, on Tuesday.

Billions across Asia, including neighboring Pakistan, have been enduring an exceptionally hot summer, a trend exacerbated by human-driven climate change, according to international scientists. In Jaipur, Rajasthan state, three more deaths were attributed to heat stroke on Tuesday, raising the city’s toll to four and the state’s total to at least 13.

The rising temperatures have also led India’s election commission to implement additional measures during national elections in Delhi last week. These included deploying paramedics at polling stations, which were equipped with mist machines, shaded waiting areas, and cold water dispensers. The elections conclude on June 1, with vote counting scheduled for June 4.

The heat wave alert underscores the pressing need for comprehensive climate action and preparedness to mitigate the severe impacts of rising temperatures on public health and infrastructure.