Climate Change

Heat waves strike south India as north copes with cold

While northern India is witnessing an extended winter season, the southern part of the country started experiencing heat wave conditions on March 6, 2019

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Thursday 07 March 2019
Representational Photo: Getty Images
Representational Photo: Getty Images Representational Photo: Getty Images

India is currently battling two different weather extremes in two different directions. While northern India is witnessing an extended winter season due to a flurry of intense western disturbances (WDs) in February and early March, the southern part of the country was under heat wave conditions on March 6, 2019, according to data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Earlier, the IMD had forecast two days of heat wave conditions in Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Rayalaseema. Latest temperature data from these regions’ meteorological centres proves that the forecast was correct. 

According to the IMD, “heat wave need not be considered till maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40 degree Celsius for plains and at least 30 degree Celsius for hilly regions for two or more days continuously.”

On March 6, IMD’s Dharmapuri station recorded a maximum temperature of 40.2 degree Celsius which is the highest temperature ever recorded at the place in March. The previous record was 40 degree Celsius — recorded in 1996.

Vellore recorded the highest maximum temperature in the state at 40.6 degree Celsius while Thiruthani sweated at 40.5 degree Celsius. Last year Vellore’s highest maximum temperature for the month of March was 38.4 degree Celsius, which was recorded late in the month.

Many other stations – Tiruchirapalli, Salem, Madurai and Karur Paramathi also recorded maximum temperatures very close to the 40 degree mark.

The situation is similar in Andhra Pradesh. While two meteorological stations at Tirupathi and Cuddapah in the Rayalaseema region recorded maximum temperatures of 40.4 degree Celsius and 40 degree Celsius, five other stations recorded temperatures above 38 degree Celsius.

Last year, heat waves had started affecting parts of northern and north western India in late March, which spurred the formation of a series of unusual dust and thunderstorms in the region. This time around the same states are undergoing an extended winter.

Heat waves are the third highest cause for deaths among natural disasters in India, after lightning strikes and earthquakes; but the Indian government does not consider it as a natural calamity. In fact, the IMD came up with advisories for heat waves only in 2016 — the first time in the institution’s 140 year-history.

The heat waves of 2015 and 2016 had killed 2,040 and 1,111 people across the country respectively. In nine out of the last 10 years (till 2017) India has suffered from heat waves which have killed close to 8,000 people. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana seem to be particularly vulnerable to deaths by heat wave conditions.

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