• According to a recent study, more than 3,56,000 people died in 2019 as a result of extreme heat and that number is likely to grow in the future.
  • Recent heat waves across the world have been alarming in terms of global warming and have been attributed to climate change.

Important points:

  • Heat wave is a condition of air temperature which becomes fatal to the human body when exposed.
  • In India, heat waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
  • A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western and South Central parts of India.
  • The India Meteorological Department requires that temperatures should reach at least 40°C in the plains and at least 30°C in the hilly regions, and should reflect an increase of at least 5°C-6°C above the normal temperature to be classified as a heatwave.


  • The very high temperatures or humid conditions pose an elevated risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
  • Older people and people with chronic illness such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes are more susceptible to heatstroke, as the body’s ability to regulate heat deteriorates with age.
  • Effects from extreme heat are also associated with increased hospitalisations and emergency room visits, increased deaths from cardio-respiratory and other diseases, mental health issues, adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, etc.
  • Extreme heat also lessens worker productivity, especially among the more than 1 billion workers who are exposed to high heat on a regular basis. These workers often report reduced work output due to heat stress.
  • Risk of Wildfires: The heat domes act as fuel to wildfires, which destroys a lot of land area every year in countries like the US.
  • Prevents Cloud Formation: The condition also prevents clouds from forming, allowing for more radiation from the sun to hit the ground.
  • Effect on Vegetation: The trapping of heat can also damage crops, dry out vegetation and result in droughts.


  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued guidelines on dealing with heatwaves.
  • However, India does not recognise heatwaves as a disaster under its Disaster Management Act (2005).

Way Forward

In alignment with the Paris Agreement, the study calls for global warming to be limited to 1.5°C to avoid substantial heat-related mortality in the future. Reducing the health impacts of extreme heat is an urgent priority and should include immediate changes to infrastructure, urban environment, and individual behaviour to prevent heat-related deaths.


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