Do you know in a Bulletin of WMO they have stated that “Air Quality and climate change must be tackled together.” (World Meteorological Organization) Hence, there is interrelation between heatwaves and air pollution. Eventually, it leads to an increase in air pollution. And the foremost reason behind it is the rise in global temperatures. Every day, it is setting new alarming records. 

You must be wondering how heatwaves can result in air pollution. Hence, here is the answer! Heatwaves worsen the atmospheric conditions that lead to emission of various pollutants. Including ground-level ozone and particulate matter. These are major air pollutants that react with heat and form more pollutants. Do you know how ozone exposure can affect your health? Considering, it is a harmful pollutant that can be life-threatening for long-term inhalation. 

In this article, you can learn about it in details and impacts on human health. Furthermore, you can also check for the potential solution for mitigating the effects. 

How do heat waves influence air pollution?

Have you ever wondered why there is high pollution during high temperatures? Well, there are many scientific reasons behind it. Since, it can be influenced due to various reasons such as atmospheric conditions and human activities. Therefore, checkout the following points to know the actual reason:

Heatwaves influence air quality

1. Temperature: 

Heatwaves increase the earth’s surface temperature. In result, the rising temperature traps the cooler air and holds the pollutants in the atmosphere. 

2. Rise in Emissions:

Do you know heatwaves increase the emission from different sources? It is the reality that as the temperature rises it increases the demand for Air conditioners and other cooling devices in every industry. As a result, it leads to higher emissions from power generation. 

3. Secondary pollutants: 

Heatwaves result in chemical reactions that contribute to secondary pollutants formation. The reactions take place due to high temperature. Consequently, it results in O3 at ground level. 

4. Increase in fires: 

Heatwaves lead to a rise in wildfires and fires as it plays the role of fuel (NIH). Due to this, it emits various pollutants including particulate matter and carbon monoxide. 

What pollutants are emitted in the atmosphere due to heatwaves?

Air quality includes numerous pollutants that can increase during high temperatures. It includes PM2.5, PM10, NO2, SO2, CO, O3 and other pollutants. In extreme heatwaves, ground-level ozone and particulate matter are the major pollutants. 

Chemical reaction: 

Chemical reaction emits pollution

Since intense sunlight increases the photochemical reaction that leads to ground-level ozone emission. With it, it can also result in releasing of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 


Wildfire releases air pollution

Moreover, as you already know heatwaves cause wildfires. Hence, it is the main source of various pollutants. It releases a major amount of PM and VOCs. Besides, it greatly affects the overall geographical environment. 


Power plants: 

emission from power plants

The temperature rise also increases the energy demands. Thus, the energy demands spike more emissions from power plants. Therefore, these contribute to carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. 


Emission from vehicles

Furthermore, Vehicle usage increases in the heatwaves to avoid heat. Hence, it leads to more emissions from vehicles in urban areas. 

Do you know what you can face due to high ground-level ozone?

Ozone is the secondary pollutant that forms with NOx, VOCs and Sunlight reactions. It means you are also enhancing other pollutants including nitrogen oxide, and volatile organic compounds. Hence, an increase in temperature can lead to Ozone in the atmosphere. And long-term ozone inhaling leads to various respiratory issues. High ozone exposure leads to premature death. With it, it also leads to immediate breathing conditions. Such as per American Lung Association:

health issues due to ozone and other pollutants
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Asthma attacks
  • Lung diseases (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease COPD)
  • Breathing shortness or irritation. 

Understand the interconnection between heatwaves and air quality with a case study: 

Analyzing New Delhi’s temperature and air pollution data to reveal the connection. The presented data is from 1st May 2024 to 8th May 2024. Also, it is the peak data of the day. It is noticed that AQI is affected due to the scorching heat. You can see that whenever the temperature increases during the day, it also influences the Air Quality Index. 

Keeping this fact in mind the power demand spikes in summer as well as the emission from industries. Moreover, Delhi has a record of air pollution due to various activities. Ergo, the heat waves and increasing temperature play the fuel role in it. 

Here is the data:

May 1, 202435°280
May 2, 202432°273
May 3, 202434°387
May 4, 202436°437
May 5, 202439°475
May 6, 202439°352
May 7, 202440°564
May 8, 202436°261
(Data source: AQI.IN)

connection between heatwaves and air pollution
(Data Source:

In the given data, the air pollution increases with the increase in temperature. As the data shows the highest AQI level has been recorded when the temperature is 40° Celsius. Hence, it increases the AQI level directly to 564. It is a hazardous level that can cause extreme health conditions. 

When the temperature dips the spike of air quality index also dips. Thus, it reaches 261 level which provides a little breath of relief. The study justifies how air pollution increases with the temperature rise. 

Alongside, It depends on the air temperature because the rise in it traps the cooler air. Due to this, it also covers various pollutants in the atmosphere. 

How to protect yourself from heatwaves and air pollution?

Protecting yourself from scorching heatwaves and air pollution is crucial. Because of it, you will face a double attack on your health. Firstly attack of heat and secondly attack of poor air. Thus, effective strategies to mitigate these impacts are necessary. So, you can start with air quality and temperature monitoring. Most importantly, you have to save yourself from the exposure. Easily you can do this by avoiding outdoor visits and covering yourself. Moreover, you can also focus on staying hydrated and eating healthy diet. The following points can help in protecting yourself from the rise in temperature and air pollution:


Air quality and temperature monitoring

Firstly, check for the governmental sites for the air quality and temperature data. Through it, you can stay updated on heatwave warnings and the air quality index (AQI). Henceforth, you can invest on the Air quality monitor.

Use Air Purifiers:

Air purifier

Secondly, breathe the clean and fresh air to control the adverse health effects and increase your lifespan. Thus, Advanced indoor air purifiers with HEPA filters are the best.

Eco-friendly air cooling options: 

eco-friendly cooling system

By investing in this option, you can limit the emissions to promote clean energy. Lastly, you can consider an evaporative or swamp cooler. Recently, an air-conditioning system using terracotta pots has become the hype and aesthetic for homes. 

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