The analysis looked at how warming trends in India increase the chances of uncomfortably and possibly dangerously hot conditions.

India has increased risk of extreme heat during Holi: Report

Warming trends in India are a clear sign of the impacts of human-led climate change, experts say

Hot temperatures are an increasing health concern in India and around the world. A new analysis by Climate Central looked at the chance that people celebrating Holi, falling on March 25, would encounter temperatures above 40°C . 

The analysis looked at how warming trends in India increase the chances of uncomfortably and possibly dangerously hot conditions.

According to the analysis, in the climate of the early 1970s, it would be exceedingly rare to encounter temperatures in late March above 40°C. Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar were the only states in that period with more than a 5% chance of reaching these temperatures.

In contrast, in this year’s climate, the chance of reaching 40°C expands to nine states in total: the three original states plus Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh. The highest probability is now in Maharashtra (14%), the analysis found.

Probability that a day in late March/early April is above 40°C

The study considered the change in probability in 51 large cities across the country. A total of 37 cities now have at least a 1% chance of experiencing 40°C or warmer temperatures, and 11 have a 10% or greater probability.

With the exception of Madurai, the 15 cities with the highest risk of a day in late March being above 40° occur in the centre of the country (Table below). Bilaspur now has the highest risk (31%), and the city’s chance is now 2.5 times higher than in the 1970s. 

The study revealed that the largest change in risk between the two periods occurred in Indore. While the risk is relatively low (8%), it is 8.1 times higher than in the past. Madurai and Bhopal also have very large changes (7.1 and 5.5 times higher, respectively) and relatively high overall risk (19% and 12%).

Citypast (~1970)current (~2024)Probability Ratio
Probability of a late March day being above 40°C in the climate of the early 1970s and the current climate. The probability ratio is the current probability divided by the past probability.

 March and April heating up all over India

Every region considered in the study had net warming during both March and April. During March, the northern and western regions have the fastest warming, with the largest change since 1970 in March occurring in Jammu and Kashmir (2.8°C). Warming is more uniform in April and Mizoram has the largest change since 1970 (1.9°C)

March and April warming trends. The warming rate is expressed as the change in temperature since 1970. 

The researchers extracted daily average temperatures from ERA5 from January 1, 1970 to December 31, 2023. ERA5 uses sophisticated computer models to blend meteorological observations from weather stations, balloons, and satellites. For each 0.25°-by-0.25° grid cell, they computed the mean over each month. The monthly data was then averaged across 34 states and Union Territories. Chandigarh and Lakshadweep were excluded from the analysis due to their small size.

“There is no denying the fact that climate change is behind the soaring mercury levels. In fact, we can say that there is a gradual shift in temperature patterns. Heatwaves in March were rare, but with the increasing global warming, the probability of heatwaves or high temperatures have also increased. We will witness similar weather conditions this year as well. This trend will continue in the coming days and we must prepare for an intense summer season ahead,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president – meteorology and climate change, Skymet Weather.