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 (IMD).
Health Ministry issues advisory as IMD forecasts heatwaves after hottest February since 1901. It said people should dial 108/102 immediately if they come across someone with a high body temperature who is either unconscious, confused, or has stopped sweating.
Last year, India suffered its hottest March in more than a century, scorching the grain harvest and forcing the government to curb exports. A heatwave for the second straight year could dent the production of wheat, rapeseed, and chickpeas, and complicate the government's efforts to bring down food inflation.
A heat wave curtailed India's wheat production in 2022 and forced the world's second largest producer to ban exports. The average maximum temperature in February was 29.54 degrees Celsius, the highest since 1901 when the IMD started keeping weather records.
The country received 68% lower rainfall than normal in February, the weather office said. Government officials warned last year that the South Asian country could see more frequent heat waves in the future and that average temperatures, even during the monsoon season, have been rising over the last two decades.
Higher temperatures could also lift power consumption above supplies during the summer season.
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 the rising demand for air conditioners and irrigation pumps.
The number of Indian states hit by heat waves since 2015 more than double to 23 by 2020. The country describes a heat wave as a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the hot weather season.