Warmest February in 122 years: What it means for summers in North India

BySoumya Pillai & Jayashree Nandi
Mar 01, 2023 07:08 AM IST

Even in terms of minimum temperatures, the month was the fifth warmest since 1901 (the warmest was February 2016)

New Delhi: This February was the hottest in India since 1901, the earliest year for which data is available, with maximum temperatures touching 29.54 degrees Celsius (monthly national average). The five warmest Februaries in India have all been in the last 14 years, indicating the impact of the climate crisis.

Girls cover their faces with scarf on a hot day in Gurugram on February 27. (Parveen Kumar/HT)
Girls cover their faces with scarf on a hot day in Gurugram on February 27. (Parveen Kumar/HT)

Even in terms of minimum temperatures, the month was the fifth warmest since 1901 (the warmest was February 2016).

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The average maximum or day temperature was  1.73 degrees Celsius (ºC) above normal over the country and average minimum temperature, 0.81ºC above normal , the India Meteorological Department said on Tuesday.

“We are seeing that progressively, over the years, winter period is getting shorter but more intense and the summertime is becoming more gruelling as well as more prolonged. While local factors do play a role, climate change is also impacting temperature recordings. These extreme weather recordings are impacting urban centres the most,” said Mahesh Palawat, vice president (meteorology and climate change) Skymet Weather Services.

The national average was pushed up by northwest India (the region includes Delhi)  which saw the warmest February in 122 years; central India saw the second warmest February. IMD  data shows that in February , the average maximum temperature recorded over northwest India was 24.86 ºC. In Delhi , the average maximum temperature for the month was 27.7ºC.

February in northwest India usually marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, with maximum temperatures rarely crossing the early 20s.

The rising trend of daytime temperature recordings is not limited to this year. According to forecasters, over the last decade, maximum temperatures in the month of February have peaked and crossed the 30-degree Celsius mark in the region on several occasions.

For instance, in February 2021,  the maximum temperature crossed 30ºC on seven occasions.

The month of March has also been witnessing a similar trend of warming. Last year, northwest India recorded the hottest March and April  in 122 years.

 Weather forecasters explain that while the lack of rainfall in the region was the immediate local reason for the warm February, the larger context of the impact of climate change and global warming cannot be ignored.

There was a 68% deficiency in rainfall in February over the country with 75% deficiency over northwest India. No rain and the resultant  clear skies combined with the development of an anticyclone over Arabian Sea led to record heat over the country, weather department officials  said. An anticyclone is a high pressure area that results in warmer and drier weather.

“If you see, the entire northern hemisphere has been dry and warm in February. There was a large deficiency in rainfall which led to clear skies and higher solar insolation. An anticyclone was also persisting over Arabian Sea which led to subsidence of warm air temporarily over the western region. This led to exceptional warming,” said SC Bhan, head, hydromet and agromet advisory services at IMD.

 Naresh Kumar, senior scientist at IMD, said  that while February might be considered a spring month by laypeople, it is categorised as a winter month as per the weather office’s calendar.

Responding to HT’s question on whether the heat in February is a result of the climate crisis, Bhan said: “Global climate change is causing temperatures to rise. Whether this particular event is a result of climate change is a matter of diagnosis but it is accepted that global warming is causing warming events globally.”

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