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Daily Current Affairs

15-May -2024- Top News of the Day

1. New Chabahar pact ‘not exempt’ from Iran sanctions: U.S.

(Source – The Hindu, Delhi Edition – Page No. – 1)

Topic: GS2 – International Relations
Context

The U.S. State Department expressed concerns over India and Iran’s new 10-year agreement to develop the Chabahar port, warning of potential sanctions risks.

● India’s plans to invest in the port could be affected, despite previous exemptions granted by the U.S.

 Analysis of the news:

  • The U.S. State Department raised concerns over the new 10-year agreement between India and Iran regarding the development of the Chabahar port, citing potential risks of sanctions.
  • India’s plans to invest approximately $120 million in equipment for the port and extend a credit line of $250 million are under scrutiny.
  • The U.S. emphasised that sanctions on Iran remain in place and cautioned entities against engaging in business deals with Iran.
  • Previously, India managed operations at Chabahar’s Shahid Beheshti Terminal despite U.S. sanctions, thanks to a carve-out made by the Trump administration in 2018.
  • The carve-out clause allowed exemptions for humanitarian aid for Iran and assistance for Afghanistan, if deemed in the national interest of the United States.
  • India complied with U.S. demands to stop oil imports from Iran in 2019.
  • The Indian External Affairs Ministry refrained from commenting on the U.S.’s response, and officials are studying its implications.
  • The impact on India’s future dealings with Chabahar port in light of the U.S. stance remains uncertain, with elections underway in India and upcoming in the U.S.
 Importance of Chabahar port for India:

Importance of Chabahar Port for India:

Strategic Access: Chabahar Port provides India with direct access to Afghanistan, Central Asia, and beyond, bypassing Pakistan.

Trade Routes Diversification: It diversifies India’s trade routes, reducing dependence on traditional sea routes through the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

Regional Connectivity: Chabahar Port is a key component of India’s efforts to enhance regional connectivity and promote economic integration with Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

●  Humanitarian Assistance: It facilitates the delivery of humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, strengthening India’s role in regional stability and development.

Energy Security: Chabahar Port opens avenues for energy cooperation, including access to hydrocarbon resources in Central Asia and beyond.

Challenges Facing Chabahar Port for India:

Geopolitical Tensions: Political instability and regional rivalries, particularly between Iran and the United States, pose challenges to the smooth operation and development of Chabahar Port.

Infrastructure Development: Delays and challenges in infrastructure development, including road and rail connectivity projects, hinder the full realisation of Chabahar Port’s potential.

Financial Constraints: Funding constraints and economic sanctions on Iran limit investment opportunities and slow down the pace of development at Chabahar Port.

Security Concerns: Security threats, including piracy and instability in the region, raise concerns for the safety of shipments and personnel at Chabahar Port.

Competitive Pressure: Increasing competition from rival ports and transportation corridors in the region, such as Gwadar Port in Pakistan, poses challenges to Chabahar Port’s competitiveness and attractiveness for trade and investment.

PYQ: In what ways would the ongoing US-Iran Nuclear Pact Controversy affect the national interest of India? How should India respond to this situation?
(250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2018)
Practice Question:  What role does the Chabahar port play in India’s strategic and economic interests, particularly in the context of regional connectivity and its impact on India’s relations with Iran and Afghanistan? Discuss with relevant examples. (250 Words /15 marks)

2. U.S. lawmakers to introduce legislation to formalise strategy for Indian Ocean Region

(Source – The Hindu, Delhi Edition – Page No. – 6)

Topic: GS2 – International Relations
Context

●  The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to introduce the Indian Ocean Region Strategic Review Act, urging a comprehensive U.S. strategy for the Indian Ocean.

● Sponsored by Congressman Castro and Issa, the Act aims to counter Chinese influence and strengthen ties with key regional partners like India.

 Analysis of the news:

  • The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee plans to introduce the Indian Ocean Region Strategic Review Act.
  • Sponsored by Joaquin Castro and Darrell Issa, the Act aims to develop a cohesive U.S. strategy for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • Based on a recommendation by the Bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
  • The Act requires coordination across State, Defense, and USAID departments to formulate and execute the IOR strategy.
  • It emphasises strengthening diplomatic ties, military communication, and intelligence sharing with strategic partners like India.
  • Freedom of navigation and protection of international shipping lanes are key components.
  • The legislation highlights cooperation with Quad countries (U.S., India, Australia, Japan) and island nations for commercial exchanges and economic development.
  • It mandates enhancing regional governments’ and NGOs’ capacity to respond to environmental disasters.
  • Congressman Castro anticipates bipartisan support for the legislation to counter Chinese influence.
Need for India – US Corporation in Indian Ocean Region:

Strategic Importance: The Indian Ocean region serves as a critical maritime domain connecting major trade routes and strategic chokepoints, making it vital for global trade and security.

Security Challenges: Shared concerns such as piracy, terrorism, illegal fishing, and trafficking pose significant security challenges in the Indian Ocean, necessitating collaborative efforts for effective countermeasures.

Maritime Domain Awareness: India-US cooperation enhances maritime domain awareness through joint surveillance, intelligence sharing, and joint naval exercises, bolstering maritime security in the region.

Counterbalancing China: Collaboration between India and the US serves as a counterbalance to other regional actors, ensuring stability and preventing undue influence by China in the Indian Ocean.

Economic Interests: Both countries have economic interests in the Indian Ocean region, including energy resources, trade routes, and economic partnerships, making cooperation essential for safeguarding economic interests.

Humanitarian Assistance: Joint efforts enable rapid responses to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and search and rescue operations, demonstrating the value of cooperation in promoting regional stability and security.

Capacity Building: India-US cooperation supports capacity building initiatives, including infrastructure development, naval capabilities, and coastal surveillance, strengthening the collective ability to address emerging security challenges effectively.

PYQ: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted a global sea level rise of about one metre by AD 2100. What would be its impact in India and the other countries in the Indian Ocean region? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2023)
Practice Question:  How does the proposed Indian Ocean Region Strategic Review Act reflect evolving U.S. strategic interests in the Indian Ocean? Discuss its potential implications for regional dynamics and India-U.S. relations. (150 Words /10 marks)

3. ‘NISAR satellite will monitor tectonic movements to centimetre accuracy’

(Source – The Hindu, Delhi Edition – Page No. – 3)

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Achievements of Indian S&T.
Context
The article features excerpts from an interview with ISRO Chairman S. Somanath, discussing upcoming space missions including the NISAR satellite launch, Chandrayaan-4 mission, Spadex experiment, and progress on the Gaganyaan mission, offering insights into India’s space exploration endeavours and future plans.

 NISAR Satellite: Benefits and Launch Delay

  • The NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite, featuring two bands, S-band and L-band, combines contributions from both ISRO and the U.S.
  • Capable of fully covering the Earth’s surface in approximately 14 to 15 days, NISAR’s radar technology enables precise monitoring of tectonic movements, water bodies, vegetation cover, and snow cover.
  • It provides invaluable data for studying climate change, agricultural patterns, desertification, and geological phenomena such as tectonic plate movements.
  • Despite initial plans for a July launch, technical issues with the satellite have delayed its launch to October-November, as corrections are being made by the U.S. team.

Chandrayaan-4 Mission: Sample Return Concept

  • Chandrayaan-4, a concept currently under development by ISRO, aims to advance lunar exploration as part of India’s larger mission to land on the moon by 2040.
  • It seeks to bring back lunar samples, requiring a rocket capable of handling the mission’s complexity, making it almost twice the scale of Chandrayaan-3.
  • ISRO is in the process of designing Chandrayaan-4 and will seek government approval for its detailed plan, representing a significant step in India’s lunar exploration journey.

Space Docking Experiment (Spadex): Advancing Space Station Goals

  • ISRO is set to conduct the Space Docking Experiment (Spadex) by year-end, a crucial precursor to building a space station.
  • Spadex involves the docking of two satellites in space, showcasing autonomous docking technology, a critical capability for future space missions.
  • The successful completion of Spadex will pave the way for ISRO’s ambitions in space station construction and further space exploration endeavours.

Gaganyaan Mission: Progress and Astronaut Selection

  • Progress on the Gaganyaan mission includes ongoing tests, such as helicopter air drop tests of the crew module, aimed at demonstrating the parachute system’s effectiveness.
  • ISRO is gearing up for the unmanned Gaganyaan G-1 mission, with plans for the second abort test also underway.
  • One of the four selected astronauts for the Gaganyaan mission will likely fly to the International Space Station (ISS) this year, marking a significant milestone in India’s human spaceflight program.

Sukhrayaan Project: Venus Probe and Approval Process

  • ISRO has completed the design and configuration work for the Sukhrayaan project, which aims to send a probe to Venus.
  • The project is awaiting government approval, indicating ISRO’s readiness to explore new frontiers in space exploration.

Future Satellite Projects: Varied Applications and Advancements

  • ISRO is actively working on several new satellite projects, including the Bharatiya Antariksha Station, slated to launch its first module by 2028, signalling India’s ambition for a space station.
  • The New Generation Launch Vehicle (NGLV), named Surya, represents ISRO’s commitment to advancing launch vehicle technology.
  • Satellite projects also include a quantum key distribution satellite and a software-defined radio satellite, showcasing ISRO’s focus on cutting-edge communication and security technologies.
  • Additionally, ISRO is developing a constellation of satellites for aircraft monitoring, known as the Aircraft Detection System (ADS), aimed at enhancing air traffic management within Indian airspace.

Conclusion

  • ISRO’s ambitious projects, ranging from satellite missions to space exploration endeavours, highlight India’s growing stature in the global space arena.
  • These initiatives underscore ISRO’s commitment to advancing scientific research, technological innovation, and international collaboration in space exploration.
  • With ongoing efforts to push the boundaries of space exploration, ISRO continues to inspire and contribute to humanity’s quest for knowledge beyond Earth’s boundaries.

PYQ:

Q.1 What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space programme? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2019)

Q.2 India has achieved remarkable successes in unmanned space missions including the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission, but has not ventured into manned space mission, both in terms of technology and logistics? Explain critically. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)

Practice Question:  What are the key objectives and significance of the NISAR satellite mission? Discuss its potential benefits for India and the U.S., along with the challenges faced in its launch schedule. (150 Words /10 marks)

4. More solar storms brewing after last week’s aurorae as Sun ‘wakes up’

(Source – The Hindu, Delhi Edition – Page No. – 7)

Topic: GS3 –  Science and Technology
Context
● The article discusses a rare occurrence of vivid aurorae observed globally, highlighting their significance and potential risks associated with solar activity. It emphasizes the role of space weather forecasting and ISRO’s solar observation missions in understanding and mitigating the impact of geomagnetic storms.

Rare Aurorae Phenomenon

  • On Friday night, people worldwide witnessed a rare spectacle of vibrant aurorae, including in unusual locations like Hanle in Ladakh.
  • Aurorae, though visually stunning, are triggered by solar events and can have adverse effects on Earth, such as blackouts, satellite disruptions, and risks to astronauts.
 What are Aurorae?

●  Aurorae, commonly known as the Northern and Southern Lights, are natural light displays in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen at high latitudes near the poles.

● They occur when charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth’s magnetic field, resulting in the emission of colourful lights, often in green, red, and purple hues.

 Solar Dynamics and Aurorae Formation

  • Solar events, like mass ejections of charged particles from the Sun’s surface, interact with Earth’s magnetic field, creating geomagnetic storms that produce aurorae.
  • Geomagnetic storms are infrequent, occurring once every few decades, typically coinciding with the Sun nearing the peak of its 11-year solar cycle.
 Formation of Aurorae:

Aurorae form when charged particles, primarily electrons and protons, emitted by the Sun during solar flares and coronal mass ejections, collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere.

● These collisions excite atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, causing them to emit light.

● The most common colours produced are green and red, caused by oxygen molecules at different altitudes.

● Nitrogen molecules can also emit blue and purple hues.

Earth’s magnetic field directs these charged particles towards the polar regions, resulting in the stunning displays known as the Northern and Southern Lights.

It is also known as Aurora Borealis  in Northern hemisphere and Aurora Australis  in Southern hemisphere.

Intensification of Solar Activity

  • The recent aurorae event indicates increased solar activity, particularly compared to the previous solar cycle.
  • Sunspots, magnetic disturbances on the Sun’s surface, contribute to the generation of charged particle bursts that lead to geomagnetic storms.

Impact and Forecasting of Solar Storms

  • Solar storms pose risks to terrestrial infrastructure, including power grids and satellite systems, highlighting the importance of space weather forecasting.
  • Despite the potential for disruption, early warnings from organisations like the Center of Excellence in Space Sciences India (CESSI) help mitigate the impact of geomagnetic storms.

Historical Context and Severity

  • While the recent geomagnetic storm was categorised as severe, it caused minor disruptions, contrasting with historical events like the 1859 super-geomagnetic storm that led to widespread telegraph failures.
  • Space weather forecasters play a crucial role in providing early warnings and implementing preventative measures to minimise the impact of solar storms.

Aditya-L1 Mission and Solar Observation

  • Spacecraft like Aditya-L1, stationed at the Earth-Sun L1 point, monitor solar activity to anticipate geomagnetic storms.
  • Instruments onboard Aditya-L1, including the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC), provide essential data for understanding and predicting solar phenomena.

ISRO’s Contribution and Solar Monitoring

  • ISRO’s Aditya-L1 mission and other spacecraft instruments contribute to solar monitoring efforts, capturing data on solar wind flux, solar flares, and emissions.
  • Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter also detects solar emissions, enhancing our understanding of solar dynamics and their impact on space weather.

Conclusion

  • The recent aurorae event highlights the dynamic nature of the Sun-Earth relationship and underscores the importance of solar monitoring and forecasting in mitigating the risks posed by geomagnetic storms.
  • Continued efforts in solar research, supported by space missions like Aditya-L1, will enhance our ability to anticipate and respond to solar activity, safeguarding critical infrastructure and space-based assets.
 Potential impact of solar storms on earth:

Geomagnetic Disturbances: Solar storms, also known as solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CMEs), can cause geomagnetic disturbances when they interact with Earth’s magnetosphere.

Auroras: Intense solar activity can lead to spectacular auroras, such as the Northern and Southern Lights, visible at high latitudes.

Satellite Damage: Solar storms can disrupt satellite operations, damage spacecraft electronics, and interfere with communication and navigation systems.

Power Grid Disruptions: Geomagnetic storms induced by solar activity can cause power grid disturbances, leading to blackouts and electrical failures.

Radio Interference: Solar storms can disrupt radio communications, including aviation and maritime radio signals, affecting navigation and safety.

Airline Routes: High levels of solar activity may necessitate rerouting of airline routes over polar regions to avoid increased radiation exposure to passengers and crew.

Spacecraft Hazards: Solar storms pose risks to astronauts and spacecraft outside Earth’s protective atmosphere, requiring protective measures and monitoring by space agencies.

Practice Question:  What are aurorae and how are they formed? Discuss the significance of recent aurorae observations and the role of space weather forecasting in mitigating the impact of solar activity. (150 Words /10 marks)

5. On the importance of regulatory sandboxes in artificial intelligence

(Source – The Hindu, Delhi Edition – Page No. – 11)

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology
Context

● Regulatory sandboxes, innovative tools for evaluating emerging technologies’ risks and benefits within controlled environments, are gaining global prominence.

● As governments seek to regulate AI while fostering innovation, India’s adoption of regulatory sandboxes across sectors underscores its commitment to responsible AI governance.

 The Role of Regulatory Sandboxes in AI Governance

  • Regulatory sandboxes are crucial tools used by governments to assess emerging technologies’ benefits and risks within a controlled environment.
  • They provide policymakers with empirical evidence to inform regulatory decisions, fostering innovation while ensuring responsible development.
 What are Regulatory Sandboxes?

● Regulatory sandboxes are controlled environments where businesses can test innovative products, services, or technologies under regulatory supervision.

● They allow companies to experiment and gather data within a limited scope and duration, providing valuable insights for policymakers.

● By facilitating collaboration between innovators and regulators, regulatory sandboxes balance the need for innovation with regulatory oversight.

● These mechanisms help assess the benefits and risks of emerging technologies, such as AI, while ensuring compliance with existing regulations.

● Regulatory sandboxes promote responsible development by fostering transparency, accountability, and ethical considerations in the deployment of new technologies across various industries.

 Global Adoption of Regulatory Sandboxes

  • Initially pioneered by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority, regulatory sandboxes have gained traction worldwide.
  • As of November 2020, there were approximately 73 regulatory sandboxes across 57 jurisdictions, primarily in the financial sector.
  • India has implemented regulatory sandboxes across various sectors, including finance and telecommunications, to promote innovation while maintaining regulatory oversight.

Benefits and Functionality of Regulatory Sandboxes in AI Regulation

  • Regulatory sandboxes offer a controlled setting for experimentation, facilitating collaboration between innovators and regulators to understand AI capabilities and limitations.
  • Mandating transparency and accountability, sandboxes require participants to disclose information about AI models, aiding in tailored regulation to address concerns about opacity.
  • By mandating risk assessments and safeguards, sandboxes promote responsible innovation, mitigating potential societal impacts of AI applications and fostering ethical development within the industry.

Global Regulatory Landscape for AI

  • The European Union’s AI Act includes provisions for a regulatory sandbox to test AI technology before mainstream implementation.
  • Spain established the Spanish Agency for the Supervision of Artificial Intelligence (AESIA) ahead of EU regulations, demonstrating proactive governance.
  • Globally, countries like the US, UK, China, and Singapore are developing regulatory frameworks to harness AI’s potential while addressing ethical and societal concerns.

India’s Approach to AI Regulation

  • India’s interest in regulating AI is driven by economic ambitions, ethical considerations, and societal welfare.
  • Initiatives like the national AI Portal and reports from NITI Ayog and MeitY highlight India’s vision for AI development.
  • The proposed Digital India Act, 2023, outlines regulations specific to AI to ensure responsible deployment and foster innovation.

The Role of Regulatory Sandboxes in India’s AI Governance

  • Regulatory sandboxes should be viewed as preparatory measures preceding formal legislation, tailored to India’s specific circumstances.
  • They enable stakeholders to assess risks, refine regulatory frameworks, and foster collaboration between regulators and industry players.
  • By promoting responsible AI deployment, regulatory sandboxes position India as a leader in shaping effective and adaptive regulatory frameworks for emerging technologies.

Conclusion

  • Regulatory sandboxes play a crucial role in balancing AI innovation with responsible governance.
  • They offer a controlled environment for experimentation, fostering collaboration between stakeholders and informing regulatory decisions.
  • In India, regulatory sandboxes are pivotal in guiding AI development towards sustainable growth and ensuring ethical, transparent, and accountable implementations.
Practice Question:  What role do regulatory sandboxes play in fostering innovation while ensuring responsible governance in the context of emerging technologies like AI? Discuss with reference to India’s regulatory approach and global trends. (150 Words /10 marks)

6. Emergence of FLiRT Variant (KP.2): Understanding the Latest COVID-19 Threat and Implications for India

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 12)

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health

GS3 – Science & Technology

Context:
  • The emergence of a new coronavirus variant, KP.2, dubbed FLiRT, has sparked concerns globally due to its potential impact on the spread of COVID-19.
  • This analysis delves into the characteristics of the KP.2 variant, its prevalence in India, and its implications for public health measures.
Analysis of News:

Understanding the KP.2 Variant:

  • 2 is identified as a descendant of the JN.1 variant of the virus and belongs to the Omicron lineage with novel mutations.
  • Named FLiRT due to two immune escape mutations on its spike protein, KP.2 possesses the ability to evade antibodies, raising concerns about its potential to cause breakthrough infections.

Prevalence in India:

  • Genomic surveillance data from INSACOG reveals that KP.2 has been circulating in India since November 2023.
  • Maharashtra has reported the highest number of KP.2 sequences, indicating its widespread presence in the country.
  • Despite this, 1 remains the dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India.

Clinical Characteristics and Severity:

  • FLiRT exhibits symptoms similar to earlier variants, including fever, cough, fatigue, and digestive issues.
  • While it is characterized by immune evasion, experts suggest that there is no immediate cause for alarm regarding its severity.
  • However, FLiRT’s heightened transmission rate could lead to a surge in infections, particularly among vulnerable populations.

Vulnerable Populations and Precautionary Measures:

  • Elderly individuals and those with compromised immune systems are at increased risk of severe illness from KP.2 infection.
  • Stringent precautions, such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and improved ventilation, are recommended to mitigate transmission.
  • Prompt testing and appropriate medical care are essential for vulnerable groups.

Prevention and Vaccination:

  • Preventive measures against KP.2 remain consistent with earlier variants, emphasizing the importance of respiratory protection and indoor ventilation.
  • While booster shots may not be effective against KP.2, ongoing vaccination efforts using updated vaccine formulations targeting the JN.1 lineage are recommended by global health authorities.

Conclusion:

  • As KP.2 continues to spread globally, comprehensive surveillance, robust public health measures, and updated vaccination strategies are imperative to mitigate its impact.
  • While the situation warrants vigilance, adherence to preventive measures and timely interventions can help curb the transmission of this variant in India and beyond.
Are FLiRT Variants Riskier than JN.1?
  • Increased Immune Evasion: Research indicates that KP.2 shows a significant ability to escape immunity from both the latest vaccines and previous infections.
  • Reproduction Number: The reproduction number of KP.2 may be higher than that of JN.1, indicating a potentially greater ability to spread.
  • No definitive evidence: While there’s no definitive evidence that FLiRT variants cause more severe illness, their ability to circumvent immune defences can lead to more infections and, by extension, potential increases in hospitalizations.

 

PYQ: In the context of vaccines manufactured to prevent COVID-19 pandemic, consider the following statements:

1) The Serum Institute of India produced COVID-19 vaccine named Covishield using mRNA platform.

2) Sputnik V vaccine is manufactured using vector based platform.

3) COVAXIN is an inactivated pathogen based vaccine.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

­­­­­Ans: (b)

Practice Question:  Discuss the characteristics, prevalence, and implications of the KP.2 variant (FLiRT) of the coronavirus in India. Evaluate the challenges posed by this variant and propose strategies to mitigate its spread while ensuring public health safety. (250 words/15 m)

7. Understanding the Escalating Threat of Heatwaves in India Amidst Climate Change: Implications and Mitigation Strategies

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 12)

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environment Pollution and Degradation

GS1 – Geography – Climate Change; Effects of climate change

Context:
  • The recent extreme heatwaves in parts of eastern and southern India during April have been linked to climate change, according to a study by the World Weather Attribution group.
  • This study suggests that climate change has made such abnormally high temperatures about 45 times more likely.
  • It marks the third consecutive year where early summer heatwaves in India are attributed to climate change, demonstrating the growing influence of anthropogenic factors on extreme weather events.
Analysis of News:

What are Heat Waves?

  • Heatwaves are prolonged periods of excessively hot weather that can cause adverse impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy.
  • India, being a tropical country, is particularly vulnerable to heatwaves, which have become more frequent and intense in recent years.

Criteria for Declaring Heat Wave in India:

Plains and Hilly Regions:

  • Heat wave is considered if the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C or more for Plains and at least 30°C or more for Hilly regions.
  • Based on Departure from Normal Heat Wave: Departure from normal is 4.50°C to 6.40°C.
  • Severe Heat Wave: Departure from normal is >6.40°C.
  • Based on Actual Maximum Temperature Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥45°C.
  • Severe Heat Wave: When actual maximum temperature ≥47°C.
  • If the above criteria are met in at least 2 stations in a Meteorological subdivision for at least two consecutive days, it is declared so on the second day.

Coastal Areas:

  • When maximum temperature departure is 4.50°C or more from normal, a heat wave may be described provided the actual maximum temperature is 37°C or more.

Heatwaves in India:

  • Heatwaves are characterized by abnormal temperatures rather than absolute high temperatures.
  • While they are common in northern, central, and eastern India during summer, their frequency, intensity, and duration are increasing due to climate change.
  • Last year, heatwaves even occurred in February, a winter month for India, indicating the shifting patterns of extreme weather events.
  • This year’s heatwave outlook predicts more prolonged spells, exacerbating the health risks associated with extreme heat.

Impact and Mitigation:

  • Prolonged exposure to heat poses significant health risks, including dehydration and cardiovascular/respiratory diseases, and can lead to fatalities.
  • While efforts to collect data on heat-related illnesses and deaths have improved, reliable figures remain elusive.
  • However, the implementation of heat action plans has shown promise in reducing heat-related mortality rates, although recent trends suggest a reversal, possibly due to better reporting or worsening heatwaves.

Mitigating Heatwaves:

  • All states vulnerable to heatwaves have implemented heat action plans, focusing on measures like providing cool drinking water, distributing oral rehydration solutions, and regulating outdoor activities.
  • However, more stringent regulations and adequate funding are necessary to effectively combat the worsening impacts of heatwaves, including stricter regulation of outdoor activities and increased support for heat action plans.

Conclusion:

  • The study underscores the urgent need for comprehensive measures to mitigate the adverse effects of heatwaves exacerbated by climate change, emphasizing the importance of proactive planning and resource allocation to safeguard public health during extreme weather events.
What is Heat Index?
  • The Heat Index is a parameter that considers both temperature and humidity to calculate the apparent temperature or “feel like” temperature for human beings.
  • It helps in understanding the impact of humidity on high temperatures and how it contributes to human discomfort during hot weather.
  •  The Heat Index has been launched on an experimental basis by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • It aims to provide general guidance for regions experiencing higher apparent temperatures causing discomfort to people.

Indication of Heat Stress:

  • High Heat Index values indicate a greater risk of heat-related stress and health issues.
  • It serves as a warning for potential heat-related illnesses and dangers.

Categorization of Heat Levels:

The Heat Index categorizes the apparent temperature into different levels using color codes:

  • Green: Experimental heat Index less than 35°C.
  • Yellow: Experimental heat Index in the range 36-45°C.
  • Orange: Experimental heat Index in the range 46-55°C.
  • Red: Experimental heat Index greater than 55°C.

Useful Tool for Public Health:

  • By understanding the Heat Index, individuals and communities can take proactive steps to protect public health during heatwaves.
  • It assists in making informed decisions and formulating heat action plans to ensure the well-being of the population.

 

PYQ: What are the possible limitations of India in mitigating global warming at present and in the immediate future? (2010)

1) Appropriate alternate technologies are not sufficiently available.

2) India cannot invest huge funds in research and development.

3) Many developed countries have already set up their polluting industries in India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (a)

Practice Question:  What are the implications of climate change on the recent extreme heatwaves experienced in parts of eastern and southern India? Discuss the challenges in mitigating heatwave-related illnesses and deaths, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing heat action plans in addressing these issues. (250 words/15 m)

8. OpenAI Unveils GPT-4o: A Breakthrough in Multimodal AI Interaction

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 12)

Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology – Developing new technology
Context:
  • OpenAI unveiled its latest Large Language Model (LLM), GPT-4o, positioning it as the fastest and most powerful AI model to date.
  • This development is geared towards enhancing the capabilities of its AI chatbot, ChatGPT, while ensuring ease of use.
  • Unlike its predecessor, GPT-4, which was exclusively available to paid users, GPT-4o is set to be freely accessible to the public.
Analysis of News:

What is ChatGPT?

  • ChatGPT is a variant of GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer)which is a large-scale neural network-based language model developed by OpenAI.
  • GPT models are trained on vast amounts of text data to generate human-like text.
  • It can generate responses to a wide range of topics, such as answering questions, providing explanations, and engaging in conversations.
  • In addition to being able to “admit its mistakes, challenge false premises, and refuse unsuitable requests,” the ChatGPT can also “answer follow-up questions.”
  • The chatbot was also trained using Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF).

Features and Functionality:

  • GPT-4o, denoted by ‘o’ for ‘Omni’, represents a significant advancement in human-computer interactions.
  • It is designed to accommodate inputs in various formats, including text, audio, and images, and provide responses in corresponding formats.
  • This multimodal capability marks a departure from earlier models, empowering users with real-time translation and spoken conversations.
  • OpenAI has emphasized that the updated version of ChatGPT will incorporate enhanced memory capabilities and learn from past interactions with users.
  • The gradual rollout of GPT-4o to the public underscores OpenAI’s strategic approach to its deployment.

Technological Innovation:

  • Central to GPT-4o’s prowess is its architecture, which integrates text, vision, and audio processing into a single end-to-end model.
  • Unlike previous iterations that relied on multiple models for different tasks, GPT-4o’s unified approach enables holistic processing and understanding of inputs across modalities.
  • Notably, advancements in speed and efficiency allow GPT-4o to respond to queries in conversation-like timescales, a feat previously unattainable.

Significance and Implications:

  • The introduction of GPT-4o signals the escalating competition in the AI landscape, with major players like Meta and Google vying to develop and integrate more powerful LLMs into their products.
  • Microsoft, a significant investor in OpenAI, stands to benefit from GPT-4o’s capabilities, potentially leveraging it across existing services such as its search engine.
  • Moreover, the timing of the release, just ahead of Google’s I/O developer conference, hints at the competitive dynamics within the industry.

Limitations and Future Directions:

  • Despite its advancements, GPT-4o is still in the nascent stages of exploring unified multimodal interaction, with certain features like audio outputs available in limited forms initially.
  • OpenAI acknowledges the need for further development to fully realize the model’s potential in handling complex multimodal tasks seamlessly.
  • Safety considerations remain paramount, with OpenAI implementing measures such as filtered training data and refined model behavior to address risks associated with cybersecurity, misinformation, and bias.

Conclusion:

  • The debut of GPT-4o marks a significant milestone in AI development, promising enhanced capabilities and broader accessibility in the realm of human-computer interaction.

 

PYQ: With the present state of development, Artificial Intelligence can effectively do which of the following? (2020)

1) Bring down electricity consumption in industrial units

2) Create meaningful short stories and songs

3) Disease diagnosis

4) Text-to-Speech Conversion

5) Wireless transmission of electrical energy

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2, 3 and 5 only

(b) 1, 3 and 4 only

(c) 2, 4 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans: (b)

Practice Question:  Describe the key features and significance of OpenAI’s latest large language model, GPT-4o, in enhancing human-computer interactions and its potential implications for the future of AI technology. (250 words/15 m)

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