CHENNAI: This May could go down as one of the hottest seasons ever in India, following up on April 2017, which was the second hottest ever in history, according to the global climate report published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
With a week to go for this torrid month to end, Chennaiites have already had nine continuous days of above 40 degrees Celsius temperatures this May, according to private weather forecasters accuweather.com and skymetweather.com, compared to the five we had in 2016.
As the NOAA report makes clear, the world is passing through an accelerated warming phase. For instance, the study reported that June 2016 was preceded by 13 of the warmest months ever recorded. May 2015 and 2016, for instance, were both warmer by 0.87°C than the mean temperature for the month during the 20th century. Chances are that May 2017 will reprise that feat, especially since it is coming in the wake of the second cruellest April ever.
It was in the month of May again that a little town on the edge of the Thar desert broke a half a century-old temperature record in India. Phalodi in Rajasthan recorded 51°C on May 19, 2016, the highest temperature recording ever on Indian territory, beating a record of 50.6°C set in Alwar, also in Rajasthan, in 1956.
This year, Phalodi has been cooler, in a manner of speaking, with the highest maximum of only 43°C. But the desert town has brutal weather in May in any year. Last year, Phalodi’s temperature topped 40°C on 28 of the 31 days in the month.
Another hothouse town in Telangana, Nalgonda recorded its highest temperature of 46.2°C earlier this week, topping up 12 days of plus-40°C recordings. And there are seven days still to go.
While other notoriously hot towns in India, like Akola in Maharashtra, Balangir in Odisha, and old summer favorite Nagpur have been hitting the high notes too this May, India’s metropolises have been spared of a roasting this summer. Hyderabad’s dog days have been leavened with a thundershower or two unlike Chennai -- which has had not a single one -- but its season highest has kept a safe distance from its all-time record.
The capital of Telangana recorded 45.5°C back in June 1966 and licked that level in 2010 with a recording of 44.5°C. Both those highs were recorded in May. This May, however, Hyderabad has been fluctuating in the 40-42°C range with a respite or two from summer showers.
Delhi’s high summer is still ahead but its temperature touched 44°C on May 15. There’s considerable distance to go to reach the 48.4°C which is the national capital’s record.
Braced by the sea, Mumbai and Kolkata are not really in the 40+ league. The western metropolis has been wavering in the 35°C range, well short of its record of 42.4°C (April 14, 1952), while the West Bengal capital hovered around the 39°C, with a margin of 4.9°C to reach its highest ever (June 1, 1924).