Are India’s Heatwaves Getting Hotter?

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By Paul Homewood

I want to return to that Economist article:

It is of course widely believed that India’s heatwaves are getting worse, as the media keep telling us it is so.

But are they?

Below is the KNMI chart of daily maximum temperatures in Delhi, on the edge of the Safdarjan Airport there:

The airport is only used now for helicopter flights now, and the surrounding area is a well off, leafy suburb. In other words, it’s about as good a quality site as you are likely to get in New Delhi:

It is not immediately apparent from the KNMI chart that there has been any noticeable temperature increase in the hottest days, although as we often see elsewhere extreme cold days appear to be less common. We can drill down into the KNMI data to get a clearer impression:

Bear in mind that there is no data between 1946 and 1957, and also between 1932 and 1973. Given that fact, there is clearly nothing unprecedented about heatwaves in recent years. The record temperature was set in 1989, with 1991 in second place. And 1944 & 1945 both feature heavily as well.

The hottest day since 2002 was in May 2020, when temperatures hit 46C.  But there have been fifteen other days as hot or hotter in Safdarjan.

Monthly mean temperatures at Safdarjan also show no increase:

Much of the media coverage of heatwaves in India and elsewhere report on temperatures in urban areas, which inevitably have been trending upwards for decades in cities like Delhi. The Economist report acknowledges that UHI can easily add 2C to underlying temperatures:

The situation is well summed up by this chap, who responded to the WHO’s Dr Neira’s tweet:

CSIR_NEERI is, by the way, India’s pioneering research institute in the field of environment science and engineering.

As the guy says, they would rather have the benefits of civilisation, even if it results in marginally higher temperatures.