India will face hotter weather over the coming months, stoking concern about a repeat of the intense heat wave last year that risks damaging crops and further straining the country's power network.
The weather office expects an enhanced probability of heat waves in most parts of the country during the three months ending May 31, according to S.C. Bhan, a senior scientist at India's meteorological department.
An early onset of hot weather has already pushed electricity demand to near-record levels and led to the farm ministry setting up a panel to monitor the impact on the wheat crop, which is expected to reach a record this year. Last year, India suffered its hottest March in more than a century, scorching the grain harvest and forcing the government to curb exports.
Monthly average maximum temperatures across the country were the highest for February since 1901, according to the weather office. Temperatures in March - crucial for the wheat crop which is at a vulnerable stage - are likely to be above normal in most parts except in the peninsular region.
Prolonged heat could cut India's wheat production for a second straight year, hurting efforts to control local food costs. India is the second-biggest producer, just after China. Lower output may lead to a continuation of export curbs, keeping the global market tight.
India is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. More extreme weather events such as heat waves, heavy flooding and severe drought kill thousands every year and increase economic hardships by eroding farm productivity. At the same time, it burdens the country's energy supplies by pushing demand for fossil fuels and drying up sources of hydropower.
Power plants that run on imported coal have already been asked to operate at full capacity for three months during summer to help avoid blackouts and ease pressure on domestic supplies. Generators are producing more electricity to meet rising demand from air conditioners and irrigation pumps.
The number of Indian states hit by heat waves since 2015 more than doubled to 23 by 2020. The country describes heat wave as a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the hot weather season.
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