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Letter from India

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 8:43 PM GMT on June 22, 2007

Letter from India

It has been hot in South Asia, with temperatures in the mid-40s C (Celsius - 40 C is about 104 F) and a few temperatures recorded above 50 C (122 F). Here are the links to some news stories.

from the Khaleej Times

from the London Times

from Radio Australia

This is a part of the world where it is often hot.

Here is a link to the BBC website that talks about a heat wave in 2002. BBC report of 2002 heat wave In this report, HR Hathwar, a senior member of the Indian Meteorological Department "said that while the current spell is not extraordinary, it still is many degrees above the normal range."

Again in 2003 there was a notable heat wave as well. This image is from NASA's Earth Observatory, and shows temperature in May of 2003. Here is a link to the full story. NASA's Earth Observatory. Indian Heat Wave 2003 ) ( and ... NASA's Earth Observatory. For the 2007 Heat Wave )

Figure 1: Land Surface Temperature measured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer )

The hot temperatures in India appear as a eastward extension of the hot deserts in Africa and Arabia. In India, the very hot weather comes prior to the monsoon, which brings not only relief from the heat but much needed water. (Also, it brings floods.)

Here in 2007, with another heat wave, reports of deaths transmitted world wide, and the current discussion of climate change, there is a different tone and a different spirit to the discussion. Currently my niece Claire is living in New Delhi, and here (with her permission, of course) is a recent letter she wrote me of what it is like (climate wise) to be there right now.

From Niece Claire in New Delhi,(Posted June 21, 2007)

In the beginning of June, north Indian newspapers carried two stories that slyly glance at one another. One set of headlines describes the misery of record-breaking hot temperatures all over north India in June: each day has an illustration with little red thermometers plotting the high temperatures in different cities, and each day has a conjecture as to whether this is part of an inevitable warming future. Another set of headlines bears the news of the G-8 summit in Europe. Though neither China nor India are included in the G-8 in spite of their power, this year both are under increased scrutiny for their emissions. Echoing representations of the East's teeming masses that date from colonial times, the scrutiny of the current G-8 appears so justified: after all, these countries have populations exceeding a billion! Yet living through the heat in India makes one see the scrutiny through a different lens.

Here, in Delhi, where all the buses and auto-rickshaws used by the majority of people run on compressed natural gas, where many use bicycles or less-polluting motorcycles, where more and more take the city metro, and where the minority drive their cars to work, is the scrutiny misplaced? In this heat, people do not go to air-conditioned gyms in the middle of the day as they do in the West: instead, you will find municipal parks packed from 5 a.m. until the heat begins at 7 a.m and again in the evening, once the sun has set and the heat has subsided. As with most places, the toll that the heat takes is stratified by class: the poor still do hard labor in the middle of the day, and the more wealthy can retreat to cooler places with swamp coolers or air-conditioners. Yet even still, for those who have air-conditioners, it is routine practice to have one primary room cooled that will be shared and for lights, fans, and electric switches to be turned off as soon as one leaves a room. All Indians have taken their fair-share of load-sharing--when the electricity is turned off for a period of time during the day--necessitated to make the power supply last, to the point where conversations don't even pause when the lights go out. (One the other hand, in California under Gray Davis' tenure, billions of dollars were spent just to make sure the power didn't go off during the energy crisis.) However, the vast majority of people get by with the occasional relief of a fan, of shade, or of slowing down in the middle of the day. Rain, and the coolness that it brings, has a romantic legacy for a reason. Perhaps if more world leaders spend a few days in Delhi summers instead of retreating to meetings with central cooling, they would think about weather, and the resources that people use to get through it, in different ways.


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.