Climate change increases risks of hot weather for Holi 2024

Source(s): Climate Central
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Kids at Holi festival
Himanshu Singh Gurjar/Unsplash


In 2024, Holi occurs on March 25. Here we consider how warming trends in India increase the chances of uncomfortably and possibly dangerously hot conditions.


1. March and April are warming across India

Every region considered had net warming during both March and April (Figure 1). During March, the northern and western regions have the fastest warming, with the largest change since 1970 in March occurring in Jammu and Kashmir (2.8°C). Warming is more uniform in April and Mizoram has the largest change since 1970 (1.9°C).

2. India has increased risk of extreme heat during Holi

Hot temperatures are an increasing health concern in India and around the world. For this analysis, we focused on the chance that people celebrating Holi would encounter temperatures above 40°C (detailed methods below). In the climate of the early 1970s, it would be exceedingly rare to encounter temperatures in late March above 40°C. Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar were the only states in that period with more than a 5% chance of reaching these temperatures. 

In contrast, in this year’s climate, the chance of reaching 40°C expands to nine states in total: the three original states plus Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh. The highest probability is now in Maharashtra (14%). 

Averaging over the states smooths out differences in risk between locations. We considered the change in probability in 51 large cities across the country. A total of 37 cities now have at least a 1% chance of experiencing 40°C or warmer temperatures, and 11 have a 10% or greater probability. 

With the exception of Madurai, the 15 cities with the highest risk of a day in late March being above 40° occur in the center of the country (Table 1). Bilaspur now has the highest risk (31%), and the city’s chance is now 2.5 times higher than in the 1970s. The largest change in risk between the two periods occurs in Indore. While the risk is relatively low (8%), it is 8.1 times higher than in the past. Madurai and Bhopal also have very large changes (7.1 and 5.5 times higher, respectively) and relatively high overall risk (19% and 12%).


Dr. Andrew Pershing, VP for Science, Climate Central, said: 

“There has been an abrupt transition in the temperatures from cool winter-like temperatures to much warmer conditions now. After the strong warming trend observed in February, March is also likely to follow the same pattern. These warming trends in India are a clear sign of the impacts of human-led climate change.” 

Mahesh Palawat, Vice President- Meteorology and Climate Change, Skymet Weather 

“There is no denying the fact that climate change is behind the soaring mercury levels. In fact, we can say that there is a gradual shift in temperature patterns. Heatwaves in March were rare but with the increasing global warming, the probability of heatwaves or high temperatures have also increased. We will witness similar weather conditions this year as well. This trend will continue in the coming days and we must prepare for an intense summer season ahead.”

Dr. Akshay Deoras, Research Scientist, National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading, UK

“Global warming is favouring an early arrival of the hot weather season in India. The concentration of greenhouse gasses, which is responsible for global warming, is much larger at present compared to what it was in the 1970s. This is turning the planet into a furnace, and Indian hilly states are facing the brunt of it in particular. Given that Holi is an outdoor festival, the early onset of hot weather increases the vulnerability to heat related illness.”

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