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May heatwave threatens Indian economy, raising concerns

India is bracing for a scorching May, with the India Meteorological Department predicting monthly maximum temperatures above normal in east-central, eastern, and northeast regions of the country. The searing summer heat could strain the power network, harm the economy, and threaten people’s lives. Record-shattering heat in 2022 caused widespread suffering and affected global wheat supplies. The frequency of such events is increasing, and businesses and traders are now factoring extreme weather into their investment decisions.

Heat waves trigger spikes in electricity use, piling more pressure on the power grid and increasing the risk of blackouts. For the millions who toil outdoors, many without adequate protection, the heat leads to productivity losses and can even be deadly. As the weather office warns, humidity can also be fatal when the human body can’t cool itself by sweating.

‘Extreme heat is a serious threat to public health, particularly for vulnerable populations like the elderly, children, and outdoor workers,’ says Kalipada Pahan, a professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

India is not alone in experiencing stifling heat this year. Thailand and Bangladesh have also seen soaring temperatures, while Yunnan province in China is grappling with drought.

Although temperatures are likely to be normal to below normal in parts of northwest and west-central India in May, the weather office predicts that El Nino may develop during the upcoming monsoon season, a weather pattern that is associated with drier conditions and reduced rainfall in India. However, positive Indian Ocean Dipole conditions are also likely to develop, which could bring greater monsoon rainfall.


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