Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Brutal Heat Intensifies Across India

By: Bob Henson , 3:24 PM GMT on May 04, 2016

There are encouraging signs of a wetter-than-average monsoon in the cards for India this year--but until it arrives, millions of residents will have to deal with torrid pre-monsoon heat assaulting South and Southeast Asia this spring. More than 300 fatalities have been reported in the east-central Indian states of Odisha and Telangana. On May 1 and 2, at least 12 Indian locations broke or tied their all-time highest May temperatures. Accentuating the premature nature of this year’s heat, most of the prior records had been set during the last week of May.


Extra weeks of heat stress are an ominous portent in this highly vulnerable nation. Some 2500 people were killed in 2015 by India’s second-deadliest pre-monsoonal heat wave on record, close behind 1998 (2541 deaths).

The pre-monsoon season is naturally a hot period in India: it’s the increasing contrast between land and sea that eventually brings the heat-quenching, life-giving summer monsoon. Yet even by pre-monsoonal standards, April was extraordinarily hot across the region, as reported by WU weather historian Christopher Burt. On April 24, it hit 48.5°C [119.3°F] in the east-central town of Titilagarh--the highest temperature ever reliably measured in India during April. “You can say there is an undeclared curfew in Titlagarh after 10 am. If you go out, you are either a very brave person or you are an outsider,” local Congress member Upendra Bag told the Hindustan Times.


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