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India is feeling the heat

India is feeling the heat

india Updated: Aug 06, 2006 03:35 IST

As an oppressive heatwave bakes New York, Paris and London, a group of climate change researchers who work barefoot by dust-free workstations that generate futuristic data 24/7 are not surprised.

Back home, especially in North India, there’s no question that global warmth is gradually spreading. Expect hotter nights, warmer winters and more heatwaves.

Inside a three-year-old climate change research laboratory of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, computerised climate simulation models project an estimated 3 to 4 degrees Celsius rise in annual average temperatures nationwide.

But there’s plenty of time to be prepared.

The temperature rise is expected mid-century, though nights are already warming faster than days. Warming will be more pronounced over landlocked North India than the coastal west or south. “Warming across India is widespread and undisputed,” K. Krishna Kumar, senior scientist at IITM, told HT.

“Our projections estimate a 3- to 4-degree warming over India from 2050, enough to produce more heatwaves. Compared to North India, temperature changes will be relatively subdued in south and peninsular India.”

Minimum temperatures could be 5 degrees warmer in the decades ahead, with winters and post-monsoon months warming faster than other months. “Until the ’90s, we differed over global observations of warming nights,” said Kumar. “But the trend has reversed in India. We see night temperatures increasing faster than day temperatures.”

The models, adapted from the UK-based Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, simulate present and future climate scenarios of India reacting to global warmth. The projections required 18 months of computer time and were released earlier this year.

The simulations consider socio-economic and environmental estimates, including rising emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, that trap heat in the lower atmosphere.

As scientists debate global warming’s influence on frequent heatwaves, hurricanes or floods, this laboratory’s expertise in simulating climate change is being outsourced on demand across South Asia by Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

The group is simulating climate change scenarios prior to 2050, to help policy makers plan emission cuts. They’ve already used thousands of gigabytes to store data on 120 meteorological parameters, from the ground to 25 km high.