Heat wave grips Kolkata; mercury touches decade's highest for April

Three people succumb to heat; norwesters give south Bengal a miss

By Sayantan Bera
Published: Monday 28 April 2014

Heat wave conditions are prevailing in Kolkata and adjoining areas for the last five days (photo: Sayantan Bera)

With maximum temperatures consistently touching over 40°C, the eastern metropolis of Kolkata is witnessing the warmest April in a decade. On April 25, the mercury touched 41.2°C, matching the maximum temperature recorded on April 19, 2009, the highest in a decade.

After maximum temperatures shot 5°C over normal in Kolkata and adjoining districts of southern West Bengal, the Met department announced a heat wave on April 24.
April and May are the hottest months for Kolkata, according to historical data from the meteorological department with average maximum temperature of 35.4°C, but this year has been conspicuous because of the absence of norwesters, locally known as kalbaishakhi—thunderstorms accompanied by squalls which bring down the mercury and provide relief to all and sundry.

Read more on heat waves

“Weather in Kolkata and south Bengal is influenced by the moisture supply from Bay of Bengal. During this time a high pressure belt in West Bengal and Odisha coast push the moisture towards land. Prevalence of shallow troughs gives rise to clouding while high humidity prevents the temperature from shooting up,” says G C Debnath, director of the Regional Meteorological Centre at Kolkata.

“This year, the high pressure area is south of its normal position. A clear sky with no moisture has led to heat wave conditions. Due to lack of moisture there has been none of the usual thunderstorms this month,” adds Debnath.

The heat wave has taken its toll. On April 25, a state government official on election duty succumbed to the heat in the Murshidabad Lok Sabha seat. Two days before, on Aril 23, two people died of sunstroke in Kolkata. The school education department has advanced the summer vacation by more than two weeks, from May 19 to May 2.

People living in slums and shanties are among the worst affected. Last week Mamoni Mandal had a difficult time measuring the body temperature of her year old son suffering from high fever. Mandal lives in a one room concrete hut with an asbestos roof on the southern fringe of Kolkata. As the mercury soared outside, the thermometer crossed 101°Farenheit on its own, implying the temperature inside her house was over 38°C. She had to dip the thermometer in cold water before measuring the body temperature of her son.

The Met department’s forecasts provide no hope of immediate relief. While it predicts rain or thundershower at isolated places, heat wave conditions are expected to continue for the next three days.


Report: Turn down the heat: climate extremes, regional impacts, and the case for resilience

Report: Awareness as an adaptation strategy for reducing mortality from heat waves: evidence from a disaster risk management program in India

Feature: Quasiresonant amplification of planetary waves and recent Northern Hemisphere weather extremes

Feature: Higher trends but larger uncertainty and geographic variability in 21st century temperature and heat waves

Feature: Mapping community determinants of heat vulnerability

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories
Related Interview

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.