Climate Scientists Say South Asia’s Heat Wave with 120F Temperatures is a ‘Warning Sign’

People rest in the shade of a tree on a hot summer afternoon in Lucknow in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on Thursday. Severe heat wave conditions are sweeping north and western parts of India. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP)

Summer has arrived in South Asia WAY too early.

A punishing heat wave has pushed temperatures past 120F (50C) in some areas. Some schools have closed early for the summer. Dozens of people have died of heatstroke.

The region is already hard-hit by climate change. Extreme heat is common in May. But not in April and March, both of which were the hottest across much of India for more than a century.

“It’s smoldering hot! It’s also humid, which is making it very difficult,” Chrisell Rebello, 37, told NPR in line outside a Mumbai ice cream parlor at 11 p.m. “We need a lot of cold drinks, air conditioning – and multiple baths a day.”

Only a fraction of Indians — mostly, the wealthy — have air conditioning. Instead people soak rags in water and hang them in doors and windows.

Still, electric fans and AC have pushed India’s electricity demand to a record high.

The problem is that 70% of India’s electricity comes from coal. So the government is converting passenger trains to cargo service, to rush coal supplies to beleaguered power plants, and also importing more coal from abroad.

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SOURCE: NPR, Lauren Frayer