The Loo is a strong, dusty, gusty, hot, and dry summer wind from the west that blows over North India and Pakistan's western Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is especially strong in May and June. Exposure to it often results in fatal heat strokes due to its extremely high temperatures which are usually around 45 °C–50 °C (115 °F–120 °F).
Because of the extremely low humidity and high temperatures, the Loo has a severe drying effect on vegetation, causing widespread browning in the areas affected during the months of May and June.
Origins of the Wind Loo
The Loo is thought to have originated in the large desert regions of the northwestern Indian subcontinent, specifically the Great Indian Desert, the Cholistan Desert, and the desert areas of Southern Balochistan.
The wind Loo comes to an end with the arrival of the Indian monsoon in late summer. This usually happens in the month of June. Before the monsoon, there are brief but violent dust storms known as Kali Andhi (or Black Storm) in some parts of North India and Pakistan.
The presence of monsoon clouds in any location is usually accompanied by cloudbursts, and the sudden transformation of the landscape from brown to green as a result of the ongoing deluge and the abrupt cessation of the Loo can appear "astonishing".
Water evaporates quickly during this season because the plains of North India and Pakistan are both extremely hot and extremely dry. Although this causes many ponds and lakes to dry out, the extreme dryness of the air can also be used to create evaporation-based cooling systems. Windows shielded with fragrant Khas (/ or vetiver) dry-grass fiber-screens that are kept damp with a simple water-pumping mechanism are quite effective as an inexpensive form of air conditioning and have been in common use throughout the plains of the northern Indian subcontinent for centuries.
Because evaporation occurs at such a rapid rate in extreme dryness, the cooling effect can be quite dramatic, resulting in homes with chilly interiors. However, because the water in the screens evaporates so quickly, it must be constantly replenished from raised tanks or with pumps (that can sometimes be driven by the Loo itself). Any water reservoir that is used must also be protected from the Loo and the sun, or it will quickly deplete.
Effects of Loo Wind
During the summer months, many birds and animals are killed by the Loo, especially in deforested areas where the Loo blows unhindered and shelter is unavailable. Certain insect-borne diseases, such as malaria, have historically seen a drop during the Loo season, as insect populations plummet.
Even before the 1897 discovery that mosquitoes transmitted malaria, officials in Asia noticed that the strong winds in Northernmost India's plains naturally kept the region relatively free of the disease. The loo is often referred to as an evil wind in traditional Indo-Pakistani culture because of its destructive and potentially lethal effects on trees, humans, and animals.
It disturbs the natural living state of animals, affects the crops and trees in forests which in turn has an effect on farmers. In certain cases, if the loo is very strong and hot, it can even add fires to the trees in a forest.
Plants and vegetation don’t get the desired climate necessary for their growth. Maintaining the crops in such weather becomes a costly affair, especially in rural regions.
For children and the sick, as well as pets, avoiding proximity to the toilet is highly advised. During the Loo-affected months, most people want to spend as much time indoors as possible in the afternoons. Heatstroke is often referred to as “loo Lagna” which translates to being “afflicted by the loo”.
Overexposure to the loo or environmental heat can cause heatstrokes, increase the body temperatures which maybe lead to fever, rough skin on the face making it dull, and a consistent feeling of heat in the head. It can also severely dehydrate the body making one feel thirsty more than usual.
Precautions to take in Loo wind
During the Loo season, sharbat is usually sold, since they are widely believed to have a cooling impact on the body and have some defence against Loo-caused heatstrokes. Rose sherbets, khus-khus, shahtoot, bel, and phalsa are among them. Consumption of such sharbat and juices keeps the body hydrated and maintains body temperatures at normal.
Also, regularly consuming lemon water or even water can help to keep the body hydrated for long periods of time and prevent sunstroke in presence of loo winds. One should refrain from going out into the hot weather of Loo. However, if it is very necessary to go out for travel purposes, then cover your hands and face very well and carry plenty of water with you.
Take breaks when traveling for long distances in the loo. Traveling constantly without any breaks in the hot air can lead to excessive loss of water from the body and can severely harm the skin. Sunscreen lotions and umbrellas can also be used while stepping out to avoid tanning and negative effects on the skin because of the loo.
Choose the outfit with care. It is recommended to wear light fabrics in a loose fit which allows the skin to breathe easily. Tight heat-absorbing clothes should be avoided at all costs. They capture the heat and trap them underneath the skin which causes irritation and rashes on the skin, making it red.
Protecting the vegetation in Loo wind
Early morning watering
It is said that drinking water right after getting out of bed has numerous health benefits for humans. The same is true for plants. The high heat during Loo winds can quickly take the moisture out of the soil and dehydrate shallow roots. Watering the plants early in the morning ensures that plants and crops are sufficiently hydrated before the onset of extreme heat. Apart from this, watering multiple times a day is also a beneficial way to protect the plants from destruction in the hot climate.
Plant the Seeds Deeper
Planting the seeds deeper than normal ensures the roots don’t get dried out due to excessive oppressive heat during loo. The topsoil gets dehydrated quickly due to direct sunlight and high temperatures. If the seeds are planted deeper, dehydration would take more time and the plants would remain protected.
Shade Cloth and row Covers
Using a shade cloth or covering the entire row of vegetation with cloths can help to protect the crops from direct sunlight and hot winds. However, it is recommended to put the covers at some distance from the vegetation to avoid trapping heat.
Deep watering at the base of the plant is one of the most powerful ways to protect and revive the plants because it forces the roots to go deeper into the ground. Combine this with planting the seeds deep in the soil. Together, these two practices can help protect the vegetation from the harsh effects of loo wind.