Season’s 1st heatwave alert issued already, for Kutch, Konkan regions
Large parts of west and northwest India, as well as many Himalayan towns, have recorded temperatures 5-10°C higher than what is normal for this time of the year.
The official weather forecaster on Sunday issued the first heatwave alert for the year on Sunday, predicting soaring maximum temperatures of 37-39°C in parts of the Kutch and the Konkan regions in more signs that the country could skip the spring season and plunge into summer heat.
Officials said this was the earliest a heatwave alert was issued for swathes of regions. Typically, such alerts are issued only in March.
Large parts of west and northwest India, as well as many Himalayan towns, have recorded temperatures 5-10°C higher than what is normal for this time of the year. The Capital had a maximum of 31.5°C, and the day temperature is likely to remain at these levels for another three to four days, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
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“An anti-cyclone is persisting over the Gujarat region and neighbourhood. Due to this there is subsidence of air, just like we saw in last spring. Whenever there is subsidence, the air gets compressed and is considerably warmer,” said M Mohapatra, director general of IMD.
“Maximum temperatures have been rising by 3-4 degree C over the western parts of the country. This condition is particularly intense over Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch, where in many places maximum temperatures are over 8 degrees above normal,” Mohapatra added.
For northwest India, the conditions will remain like this until at least February 21. “Thereafter, we are expecting a cyclonic circulation to form over Punjab and Haryana which will lead to a change in wind pattern from south westerly to north-westerly. That may bring some relief over northwest India. But over west India very high maximums may continue if the anticyclone persists like last year. In fact, last year persistence of an anti-cyclone had led to two heat spells in March and April,” he added.
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Last year, the country recorded the highest average temperature for the month of March since records began to be kept 123 years ago.
Some parts of the country have already recorded over or near 40°C. On Saturday, Bhuj recorded 39.5°C, 9 degrees above normal; Rajkot recorded 38.6°C, 8 degrees above normal; Surat 37.2°C, 5 degrees above normal; Naliaya 38.6°C, 9 degrees above normal and Barmer 38.3°C, 10 degrees above normal. In the hills on Saturday, Shimla recorded maximum temperature of 23.2°C, 11 degrees above normal.
On Sunday, Bhuj recorded 38.8 degree C, 9 degrees above normal; Naliya recorded 35.6 degree C, 6 degrees above normal; Rajkot recorded 39.8 degree C, 9 degrees above normal; Ahmedabad 38.2, 7 degrees above normal; Mumbai 36.5, 5 degrees above normal; Goa 32.4 degree C; Gurugram 31.2 degree C. In the hills Shimla recorded 23.2 degree C, 11 degrees above normal; Mussoorie 21.3, 9 degrees above normal; Kangra 27 degree C, 8 degrees above normal; Manali 18.7, 7 degrees above normal among others.
A feeble western disturbance is impacting the Western Himalayan region, creating the likelihood of light rainfall or snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand during February 19 to 21.
“The anti-cyclone is persisting over southwest Rajasthan. Now most places are recording near 40°C temperatures. There is a south-westerly wind pattern over west India and over parts of northwest India bringing dry, warm winds from Pakistan and Rajasthan. These conditions will persist. I don’t see relief in sight till February 27-28 when there may be some weather activity over northwest India. It may be a temporary relief,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president, climate and meteorology at Skymet Weather.
Palawat added there seemed to now be a perceptible shifting of seasons. “We are seeing a shift in the season, towards summer. We are seeing temperatures that are expected in the later part of March. So spring is missed. We do not expect temperatures to fall again drastically,” Palawat added.
Mohapatra, however, added that it was not necessarily an indicating of an early onset of summer because very high temperatures are not being observed in the entire country. “However, if the anti-cyclone persists, it may be a cause for concern,” said Mohapatra.
Last year, a severe heatwave was recorded in spring during March and April, which scientists said was most certainly linked to the climate crisis. That heatwave is estimated to have led to at least 90 deaths across India and Pakistan, triggered an extreme Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in northern Pakistan, and forest fires in India, particularly in the hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Extreme heat also reduced India’s wheat crop yields, causing the government to stop wheat exports and power outages impacted several parts of the country.
A heat wave is considered when the maximum temperature is over 40°C over the plains; over 37°C over coastal areas and over 30°C over hilly regions with the deviation being 4.5 to 6.4°C above normal. In a severe heatwave, this deviation is more than 6.4 °C above normal.