Temperature in India Capital Jumps as Heat Waves Turn Brutal

The mercury hit 52.9C (127F) at a weather observatory in Delhi, with heat waves in several parts of the country posing serious health risks and sending peak electricity demand in the capital to an all-time high.

Bloomberg
First Published29 May 2024
Temperature in India Capital Jumps as Heat Waves Turn Brutal
Temperature in India Capital Jumps as Heat Waves Turn Brutal

(Bloomberg) -- The mercury hit 52.9C (127F) at a weather observatory in Delhi, with heat waves in several parts of the country posing serious health risks and sending peak electricity demand in the capital to an all-time high.

The extreme level was recorded at the Mungeshpur automatic weather station on Wednesday, according to the India Meteorological Department, which had earlier provided a figure of 52.3C. The bureau doesn’t consider readings from such centers for tabulating highs and lows as they were set up just a few years ago and don’t have enough historical data. 

Unusually dry conditions in the world’s most populous nation further highlighted concerns that climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of floods, droughts and cyclones across the planet. The Earth witnessed an 11th consecutive month of record-breaking heat in April, with warmer conditions prevailing in Asia and expectations for a scorching summer in Europe. 

The maximum temperature varied from 45.2C to 49.1C in different parts of the city. However, “Mungeshpur reported 52.9C as an outlier compared to other stations,” the agency said in a statement. “It could be due to an error in the sensor or the local factor. IMD is examining the data and sensors.”

The place has more concrete structures and relatively less green coverage, and sometimes records higher temperatures also due to the “urban heat island effect” that occurs when a city becomes much warmer than nearby rural areas. 

The official all-time high for Delhi is 48.4C, reached at Palam in May 1998, while the highest-ever level of 51C for the entire country was witnessed on May 19, 2016, in Phalodi, a city in Rajasthan. The temperature rose to as high as 48.2C in the northwestern state on Wednesday.

The blistering summer has pushed up power consumption, forcing outages in several parts of the country. The peak electricity demand in Delhi spiked to an all-time high of 8.3 gigawatts on Wednesday due to increased use of air conditioning, according to BSES, the biggest power distributor in the city.

A blazing sun poses health risks for people, hurts farming, raises chances of fires and could damp economic activities in the South Asian nation. A long spell of dry weather tends to put a heavy burden on power grids and reduces productivity of workers and factories. Water levels in 150 major reservoirs, which play a crucial role in shaping winter-sown crops, also fall.

High temperatures, accompanied by humidity, can be dangerous for human lives. They contribute to dozens of deaths every year in India, where a majority of the 1.4 billion population, including construction workers, laborers, hawkers and farmers, often work outdoors.

The authorities advised people to drink plenty of fluids, avoid venturing out unnecessarily, and wear loose clothes. They have been taking other measures, such as using tankers to supply drinking water, setting up shelters for people and drinking water points for birds and animals, and installing giant coolers to prevent power transformers from overheating.     

There have been 16,000 cases of heat stroke and 60 deaths since March 1, the Mint newspaper said Friday. However, the government has not confirmed media reports of weather-related hospitalizations and deaths. 

The eastern state of Bihar ordered to close all private and government-run schools until June 8, after several cases of students fainting due to blistering heat, according to the Press Trust of India.

--With assistance from Rajesh Kumar Singh and Abhay Singh.

(Updates to add details from IMD’s statement throughout.)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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