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About Heatwaves and Wildfires

Context:

Chile is currently facing a heatwave and intense wildfires that has claimed over 122 lives. A state of Emergency has been declared in Chile and additional military personnel have been deployed to assist affected regions.

Relevance:

GS I- Geography, GS  III- Environment (Climate change)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is wildfire?
  2. What causes Wildfire?
  3. How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?
  4. About Heat Wave
  5. Health Impacts of Heat waves

What is wildfire?

  • A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire that burns in the wildland vegetation, often in rural areas. 
  • Wildfires can burn in forests, grasslands, savannas, and other ecosystems, and have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years.
  • They are not limited to a particular continent or environment.

What causes Wildfire?

  • Wildfires require right climatic conditions, burnable fuel and a spark.
  • Rising temperatures suck moisture out of plants, creating an abundance of dry fuel.
  • Drought and high heat can kill plants and dry out dead grass, and other material on the forest floor that fuel the fire once it starts sweeping through a patch.
  • While dry vegetation is the burnable fuel that serves as kindling for fires, the spark is sometimes caused by lightning, at other times by accident or recklessness of the local population.

How dangerous is inhaling wildfire smoke?

  • While fire poses a direct risk to people’s life and property, wildfire smoke, and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns, can also affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.
  • For those already suffering from cardiovascular or respiratory illnesses, there is a risk of flare-ups.

About Heat Wave

  • A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western and South Central parts of India.
  • Heat waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
  • Higher daily peak temperatures and longer, more intense heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.

Criteria for Heat Waves

  • The heat wave is considered when the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
  • If the normal maximum temperature of a station is less than or equal to 40°C, then an increase of 5°C to 6°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave condition.
  • Further, an increase of 7°C or more from the normal temperature is considered as severe heat wave condition.
  • If the normal maximum temperature of a station is more than 40°C, then an increase of 4°C to 5°C from the normal temperature is considered to be heat wave condition. Further, an increase of 6°C or more is considered as severe heat wave condition.
  • Additionally, if the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, a heat wave is declared.

Health Impacts of Heat waves:

  • The health impacts of Heat Waves typically involve dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke.
  • It also causes heat cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and sweating.
  • The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.

-Source: Indian Express, Livemint


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