the extreme heat affects hundreds of millions of people in one of the most densely populated parts of the world, which threatens to damage entire ecosystems.
National meteorological and hydrological departments in both countries are working closely with health and disaster management agencies and plan to roll out heat health action plans, which have successfully saved lives in recent years, the UN weather agency said in a statement.
Extreme heat has multiple and cascade effects not only on human health, but also on ecosystems, agriculture, water and energy supply and key sectors of the economy.
WMO reiterated its commitment to “ensure that early warning services for multiple hazards reach the most vulnerable”.
Heat Health Action Plans
Both India and Pakistan are successful early warning systems for heat and health and pre-existing action plans, including those specifically tailored to urban areas.
They reduce heat mortality and reduce the social impact of extreme heat, including lost labor productivity.
Important lessons have been learned from the past and are now being shared with all partners of the WMO co-sponsored Global Heat Health Information Network to increase capacity in the hard-hit region, WMO advanced.
Intense heat to keep going
India’s Meteorological Service said maximum temperatures reached 43-46°C in widespread areas on April 28 and this intense heat will continue through May 2.
Similar temperatures have also been observed in Pakistan, with daytime temperatures likely to be between 5°C and 8°C above normal in much of the country, the Pakistan Meteorological Department said.
They also warned that unusual heat levels would accelerate in the mountainous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkwa. melting snow and icewith the potential to cause glacial lakes – or flash flooding in sensitive areas.
Air quality has also deteriorated and large parts of the country are at risk of fire.
Suitable for ‘changing climate’
According to the WMO, “it is premature to extreme heat in India and Pakistan solely for climate change”, the agency continues, however “it is consistent with what we expect in a changing climate”.
In addition, heat waves are more frequent, more intense and start earlier than in the past.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also said in its recent Sixth Assessment Report that heatwaves and humid heat stress would be more intense and frequent in South Asia this century.
The current heat wave was caused by a high pressure area and follows a long period of above average temperatures.
India registered the warmest March on record, with an average maximum temperature of 33.1°C, or 1.86°C above the long-term average.
Pakistan also registered its warmest March in the past 60 years, with a number of stations breaking the March records.
In the pre-monsoon period, both India and Pakistan regularly experience extremely high temperatures, especially in May.
India has established a national framework for heat action plans through the National Disaster Management Authority, which coordinates a network of national disaster response agencies and city leaders to prepare for rising temperatures and ensure everyone is aware of heat wave protocols.
The city of Ahmedabad in India was the first South Asian city to develop and implement a city-wide health adaptation in 2013, after experiencing a devastating heat wave in 2010. This successful approach has subsequently expanded to 23 heat wave-prone states and serves to protect more than 130 cities and districts.
Pakistan has also taken steps to protect public health from heat. In the summer of 2015, a heat wave engulfed much of central and northwestern India and eastern Pakistan and was directly or indirectly responsible for several thousand deaths.
The event was a wake-up call and led to the development and implementation of the Heat Action Plan in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan.
Typical plans ensure that the targeted intervention is well-suited and designed for a city’s heat-sensitive population.
It first identifies the city’s heat hotspots, locates the vulnerable populations in these pockets, and assesses the nature and status of their vulnerability to extreme heat.