Power, water outages added to miseries caused by heat wave

Zubair Qureshi

Friday, July 31, 2015 – Islamabad—Climate Change experts have warned of more extreme heat wave incidents in future in different parts of the country, particularly urban areas. However, they have called upon the governments around the world to prepare themselves to cope with negative impacts of heat wave incidents, which are more likely to more frequent and intense in future.

Federal Minister Mushahidullah Khan while quoting the experts on the launch of the ‘Heat Wave report’ here on Thursday shared the findings of the report with media. The report was prepared by highly qualified experts on climate change.

The Climate Change Ministry in the wake of the severe heat wave spell in June this year that hit the country in general and Karachi in particular had constituted a committee of expert s to investigate causes of the blistering heat wave in the country so that fallouts of heat wave in future could be mitigated.

The expert heat wave group comprised former director general of Pakistan Meteorological Department, Dr Qamar uz Zaman Chaudhry, DG Pakistan Meteorological Department Dr. Ghulam Rasul, Member DRR, National Disaster Management Authority Mr. Ahmad Kamal, Director-General DG, National Health Emergency Preparedness Mr. Munir Ahmad Mangrio, Senior Scientist of the Global Change Impact Studies Center Mr. Shahbaz Mahmood, and representatives from Provincial Disaster Management Authorities.

On Thursday, the report was launched by the Minister for Climate Change. Addressing the media on the occasion, Mushahidullah Khan said a sever heat wave struck the country in June this year, which caused high number of causalities, especially in Karachi. The summer afternoons in Karachi until June 15-16, 2015 displayed a typical normal moisture quantity and transport into the area from the Arabian Sea. The atmospheric conditions went anomalous after a ridge (extension of high pressure area) was extended over Balochistan and adjoining parts of the country including Karachi.

The formation of the ridge led to a weakened incoming sea breeze transport process from the Arabian Sea and consequently reduced the humidity levels below normal over Karachi on the afternoon of 17th June, 2015. The ridge further accentuated on 18th June and penetrated more into south and eastward parts of the country, he added.

During June 17-24, most of the country was under the grip of heat wave. As on June 20, high temperatures were recorded in the southern parts of the country. The temperature ranged from 49 degree Celsius in Larkana and Sibi to 45 degree Celsius in Karachi. In southern Punjab, 40 degree Celsius was recorded in Multan, whereas several areas of the Balochistan province were also affected where temperature touched 49 degree Celsius in Sibi and Turbat.

“The analysis of the lower atmosphere (1500 – 3000m above sea level) reveals that due to a low pressure area over northeastern parts of India and a shallow low over southeastern parts of Pakistan, the wind direction over Karachi remained northwesterly, which brought dry and modified warm air to Karachi. Similarly at 500 hPa (5000 m above sea level), as a result of a low pressure area over northeastern parts of India the direction of winds passing over Karachi were northwesterly which also contributed in bringing dry and modified warm air to Karachi,” he explained further.

“Frequent and prolonged power outages, water supply constraints further decreased the capacity of inhabitants to combat adverse impacts of heat wave which resulted into historically an unprecedented large number of casualties in Karachi,” he added. The members of the committee also underline the need for capacity of individuals and communities may be built to respond to the heat stress during heat waves by raising heat-health awareness campaigns in the country before the onset of a heat waves season.