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Officials announce measures to stave off catastrophe as city grapples with sweltering conditions: 'It is difficult'

The temperature climbed to 126 degrees in New Delhi in late May.

The temperature climbed to 126 degrees in New Delhi in late May.

Photo Credit: iStock

Extreme heat in India is pushing the limits of electric grids and human endurance.

What's happening?

The temperature climbed above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (above 49 degrees Celsius) — in New Delhi in late May, the first time the city's high temperature passed this threshold, as Reuters reported. According to the news service, the Indian government corrected an initial report of a high above 126 F that was caused by an equipment error, but two other sensors that had been checked for errors still registered temperatures of 120.2 (49 C) and 120.38 F (49.1 C).

New Delhi's previous record high was 119.12 F (48.4 C) in May 1998, per Reuters.

The record high occurred during a heatwave that sent temperatures soaring well past 110 F for weeks in many Indian states, as The New York Times reported

According to the Times, officials are worried about overwhelming power grids, increased fires in crowded buildings, and more deaths due to heatstroke. The impacts of this oppressive heat are also being felt from courtrooms to forests.

Why is the heat in India so important?

The extreme heat in India killed nearly 50 people and was most likely the source of more than 19,000 heat stroke cases in May alone, The Print reported. It is also being blamed for an increase in the number of forest fires reported in the Himalayan states, per the Times. The heat has found a way to affect courtrooms in the world's most populous country too: A recent case during the height of the heatwave had to be adjourned.

"There is too much heat in the courtroom, which led to sweating, as such it is difficult to hear arguments," the presiding court official, Suresh Kumar Gupta, said in an order, according to the Times report. "In these circumstances, arguments cannot be heard, so case is adjourned."

The heat in India comes during a streak of record heat impacting our Earth. April was the 11th straight warmest month on record for the planet since documentation began.

Per the Times, scientists say the average person has experienced 26 more days of abnormally high temperatures during the past year. Heat stress is the leading cause of weather-related deaths around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "hot temperatures can also contribute to deaths from heart attacks, strokes, and other forms of cardiovascular disease."  

What's being done about the extreme heat?

As the Times detailed, Delhi's water minister, Atishi Marlena, instituted fines and deployed teams to crack down on water waste and misuse. V.K. Saxena, the city's lieutenant governor, put measures in place to protect construction workers during midday heat and to provide water at bus stops.

Emergency measures aside, the ultimate solution involves limiting the amount of toxic gases trapping heat in our atmosphere. 

Innovations in technology can help cool our planet. A startup called Sirius Aviation AG recently released designs of its hydrogen-powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft, Sirius Jets. The companies that developed them say they will be a more efficient form of air travel, addressing the pollution generated from personal aircraft usage.

A recent breakthrough in batteries could change energy storage. Better ways for batteries to store energy are vital to transition to renewable power sources. Helping reduce the toxic gases that are warming our world can happen at home, too. It can be as easy as changing the way we clean our clothes.

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