Record-breaking Heatwave Grips Eastern India Amid Elections

Record-breaking Heatwave Grips Eastern India Amid Elections

Eastern India experienced its warmest April on record this year, with a heatwave affecting parts of the country during ongoing parliamentary elections, resulting in at least nine fatalities. The India Meteorological Department has predicted above-normal temperatures for May, although the intense heat is expected to gradually ease in the coming days.

In April, the mean temperature in eastern India was the highest since records began in 1901, reaching 28.12 degrees Celsius (82.61 degrees Fahrenheit). Various factors, including the El Niño climate pattern, were identified as contributors to the extreme heat. The El Niño effect typically leads to hotter and drier conditions in Asia and increased rainfall in parts of the Americas. Additionally, fewer thunderstorms and an anti-cyclonic circulation near India's southeastern coast exacerbated the heatwave by causing warmer temperatures due to the wind blowing from land towards the sea.

Specifically, West Bengal experienced the most heatwave days in April over the past 15 years, followed by Odisha where conditions were the most severe in nine years. Even in the southwestern coastal state of Kerala, authorities declared a rare heatwave, resulting in at least two deaths.

However, regions in central and northwestern India, major wheat-producing areas that usually face heatwaves during this time, were largely spared due to intermittent thundershowers last month. The Indian Meteorological Department also forecasted normal rainfall for May, with expectations of increased rainfall during the second half of the monsoon season (August and September) due to the La Niña climate pattern, which typically brings higher rainfall to India.

The monsoon season is critical for India's economy, providing 70% of the required rain for agriculture and replenishing reservoirs. The meteorological department has predicted above-normal monsoon rainfall for India in 2024.

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