It will come early and go late, the weather department's warning on heatwave is creating fear in the heart

Ananya Shroff
5 Min Read

New Delhi: Northern India has been in the grip of a scorching heatwave since mid-May, with temperatures soaring above 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in many areas. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), this is the longest heat wave ever recorded in the country. “This has been the longest period as it has been like this for almost 24 days in different parts of the country,” said IMD chief Mrutyunjay Mohapatra. Though relief is expected as the monsoon moves north this month, Mohapatra warned that the situation could worsen in the future. “Heatwaves will be more frequent, longer and more severe if precautionary or preventive measures are not taken,” he said. As the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, India has pledged to achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2070, twenty years later than most industrialised nations.

Mahapatra stressed, “The concentrations of carbon monoxide, methane and chlorocarbons are increasing due to human activities, growing population, industrialisation and transport systems. We are not only putting ourselves but also our future generations at risk.” Studies indicate that heat waves are becoming longer, more frequent and more intense due to climate change.

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A record of 49.2° was set in 2022

The country's capital and surrounding areas are in the grip of a scorching heat. In 2022, Delhi recorded a record temperature of 49.2C (120.5F). This year the temperature has returned to normal. Between May 1 and June 10, the city recorded 32 days when the temperature remained above 40 degrees Celsius, the highest number of such days in 14 years. From May 14 to June 10, the mercury remained above 40 degrees Celsius for 28 consecutive days, the highest in 14 years. In comparison, during the same period in 2023 and 2022, the temperature crossed 40 degrees Celsius on 10 and 27 days respectively. IMD data available since 2011 shows that no year before 2024 has seen a maximum temperature above 40 degrees Celsius for 28 consecutive days.

Every day is a record being made for this year 2022!

Temperatures in Delhi are expected to remain above 40 degrees Celsius for the next seven days. Stations such as Narela, Najafgarh, Pitampura, Mungeshpur and Jaffarpur have consistently recorded temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius this summer. The most dramatic jump in temperature came on May 28 and 29, when several stations recorded maximum temperatures. The maximum temperature at Safdarjung reached 46.8 degrees Celsius on May 29, while Narela and Mungeshpur recorded 49.9 degrees Celsius on May 28. Pitampura and Pusa recorded 49.8 and 49 degrees Celsius, respectively.

In 2013, the temperature remained above 40 degrees for 31 days

IMD data shows that the heatwave this time is more intense than in 2013, when temperatures crossed 40 degrees Celsius for 31 days. The lack of rain is attributed to high temperatures, with only 0.4 mm of rain recorded on May 11. May ended with a 99% deficit. Safdarjung has received just 1.2 mm of rain so far in June, indicating a deficit of 85%. “In the absence of heavy rains, the sky has been clear in Delhi, leading to rapid warming of the surface. On most days, western dry and hot winds are blowing in the city. These winds blowing from Rajasthan and south Haryana are pushing up the temperature,” said a Met official.

It's not even raining right now!

“In recent years, rains have brought down the temperature below 40 degrees Celsius, bringing respite from the scorching heat. For instance, last year the city recorded excess rainfall in March (206%), April (23%), May (262%) and June (37%). Since no significant rainfall is expected in the next seven days, temperatures are expected to remain high,” the weather official said.

“We constituted an expert committee which looked at the readings for the next two days and found that there were some problems with the sensor,” said Mahapatra. Soon after the recording, the IMD raised concerns and Mahapatra confirmed for the first time that there was something wrong with the sensor. “We inspect the AWS (automatic weather station) every six months, but in the meantime, if a bird or monkey tampers with it, there could be some problems,” he said.

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