A blistering heat wave sweeping large parts of the country, which has killed more than 500 people so far, will continue until May 29, official forecasters have said. This could hurtle some pockets in states such as Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra towards drought-like conditions.
The Met department has issued ‘red box’ warnings for three states — Odisha, Jharkhand and coastal Andhra Pradesh — for May 26, followed by Odisha on May 27.
A ‘red box’ warning usually means high chances of heat stroke, dehydration and fatality with temperatures inching upwards of 45°C, worsened by a constant dry, torrid wind.
On Monday, Bamrauli in UP notched the highest temperature in the country at 47°C, while in Delhi, the mercury soared past 45°C, the highest this summer. Delhi is unlikely to get any significant relief during the week.
The spell was mainly triggered by an abrupt end to pre-monsoon showers and missing storms. A brewing cyclonic weather pattern in Arabian Sea two weeks ago lost steam quickly, while depressions or rain-causing systems in Bay of Bengal headed off towards northwest states which are getting plentiful rains. Such a weather pattern meant a large north-to-south belt – from Rajasthan to Andhra Pradesh – became home to uninterrupted “settled” weather conditions, marked by a strong, early summer sun for more than a week.
The clear weather meant dew point, the amount of moisture in air, fell to its lowest. As the sun tends to heat dry air more rapidly than moist air, intensely hot conditions took hold.
A heat wave occurs when temperatures end up at 5°C above normal. If they are 7°C above average, then a severe heat wave takes place, according to the Met’s classification. India hasn’t witnessed such intense heat conditions in a decade but this is “neither the warmest nor the severest spell on record”, BP Yadav, a senior Met climatologist said.
Elsewhere, over the course of the next four-five days, heat wave conditions will continue to sweep Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, among others.
The hot spell may aid the monsoon’s onset since heat induces precipitation but beyond that, conditions such as an El Nino will largely “govern” the monsoon’s course. The Met has forecast a below-normal monsoon this year.