54-yr record falls in Chandigarh, westerlies to blame for severe heat : The Tribune India

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54-yr record falls in Chandigarh, westerlies to blame for severe heat

54-yr record falls in Chandigarh, westerlies to blame for severe heat

Women on a hot summer day in Prayagraj on Saturday. The IMD has issued an alert for severe heatwave in many parts till May 22. PTI



Tribune News Service

Vibha Sharma

Chandigarh, May 18

The mercury soared to 44.5 degrees Celsius in Chandigarh on Friday, making it the hottest May day ever, breaking a record going back 54 years, when the previous high of 44.4°C was recorded in 1970. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), today was the third hottest day on record in Chandigarh.

Incidentally, the number of farm fires in Punjab rose by 1,144 today, the cumulative tally climbing up to a whopping 10,331 this season. As the farmers prepare their fields for the paddy season by burning wheat crop stubble, officials say the actual number of farm fires may be much higher than reported.

Ludhiana, incidentally, breached the 46°C mark today. But it may be disingenuous to blame farmers for the conditions, for experts say the temperature rise is the cumulative effect of a number of factors, essentially climatic.

While officials says reasons for the prevailing heat wave are meteorological in nature, IMD Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra points out that “certain local factors may also aggravate the situation”. “Take any urban area. Central parts will have higher temperatures than the outskirts,” he explains. According to Dr Naresh Kumar, IMD’s heat-wave specialist, the current high temperatures are due to the absence of strong western disturbances in May and El Niño related climate factors.

“Between March and April, frequent western disturbances (WD) kept the temperatures in the range of normal to below normal. However, since the beginning of May, western disturbances have weakened. The absence of strong WDs, lack of clouds and rain, direct sun rays and heat-loaded westerly winds from Pakistan have all created the situation. It is quite normal in May,” Kumar says. There is a cumulative countrywide deficit of around 20 per cent pre-monsoon rainfall.

Farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal points out that the government’s focus has largely been on paddy stubble management. The reasons are obvious — that’s a winter phenomenon, and climatic conditions at that time cause intense fog and choke north India, especially Delhi.

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