What’s the Biggest Killer in India: Heat, Cold or Rain?

1960s1970s

1980s1990s

2000s2010sIn the past five decades, more deaths have been recorded as a result of severe rains in India than caused by extreme heat or cold combined, according to data collected by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

Since 1960, over 52,000 people have been killed by storms in the country, where the annual cyclone and monsoon seasons often carry a heavy death toll.

By contrast, even including the recent fatalities caused by a heat wave in parts of southern and eastern India, just over 10,000 people have died in extremely hot temperatures in that time.

But the proportions are shifting. Annual numbers of deaths recorded as a result of high temperatures went from 100 in the 1960s to 2,815 in the 2000s. At the same time, the number killed in storms dropped from 2,652 to 1,008.

The jump in deaths caused by heat waves could of course be a result of more accurate record keeping, while more precise forecasting and better preparedness for cyclones has been thanked for a drop in the number of fatalities caused by storms.

But a study of climate models and historical heat wave data, published in “Regional Environmental Change” by academics at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in 2014, found that periods of extreme temperatures in India are “projected to be more intense, have longer durations and occur at a higher frequency and earlier in the year.”

The International Panel on Climate Change has warned the same will happen for “most land areas under future climate warming.”

The World Bank in 2013 also said that globally, more crowded cities, lower city gross domestic product and increasing proportion of elderly people were “all independently linked to increased rates of heat-related mortality.”

Air pollution, a considerable problem in South Asia, can increase fatalities during a heat wave, said a World Bank report titled “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience.”

The report added that while there are “relatively few” studies published on heat-related mortality in developing country cities and regions, one review of temperature-related deaths in Delhi found a 4% increase in heat-related mortality for every 1°C rise above the local heat threshold of 29°C.

Delhi’s government has so far not released any figures on heat-induced deaths from the recent heat wave in the city.

Source : http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2015/06/01/whats-the-biggest-killer-in-india-heat-cold-or-rain/

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