Parts of India record hottest April as heatwave kills nine

May 2, 2024 - 10:16 AM
A snacks vendor rests in front of his stall as he waits for customers outside Alipore Zoological Garden on a hot summer day in Kolkata, India, May 1, 2024. (Reuters/Sahiba Chawdhary)

Eastern India experienced its hottest April on record as a heatwave scorched parts of the country amid a general election, killing at least nine people, and the weather office on Wednesday forecast above normal temperatures for May too.

Searing heat has been cited by political analysts as one of the reasons for low voter turnout in the seven-phase parliamentary election that began on April 19, with results due on June 4.

Heatwave conditions are, however, forecast to abate gradually in the coming days.

The mean temperature in eastern India was 28.12 Celsius (82.61 Fahrenheit) in April, the warmest since records began in 1901, with experts blaming a combination of factors.

“In an El Nino year, you get more heating,” said Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, chief of the India Meteorological Department, referring to a climate pattern that typically leads to hot and dry weather in Asia and heavier rains in parts of the Americas.

He said fewer thunderstorms and an anti-cyclonic circulation near India’s southeastern coast were causing heatwaves. “Wind blows from land towards the sea during an anti-cyclone …, so land becomes warmer and temperature rises.”

In April, the eastern Indian state of West Bengal recorded the most number of heatwave days for the month in the last 15 years, followed by the neighboring coastal state of Odisha where heat conditions were the worst in nine years.

Authorities have also declared a rare heatwave in the southwestern coastal state of Kerala, where at least two deaths have been recorded due to soaring temperatures.

Central and northwestern India, which includes major wheat producing states that typically witness heatwaves this time of the year, have been largely spared due to intermittent thundershowers last month, Mohapatra said.

The weather office said rainfall in May is likely to be normal and that it expects more showers during the second half of the monsoon season in August and September as compared to June and July due to the La Nina climate pattern, which typically brings higher rainfall to India.

Monsoon is the lifeblood of India’s economy, delivering 70% of the rain needed to water crops and recharge reservoirs, and the met department has predicted that India will receive above normal monsoon rainfall in 2024.

—Reporting by Shivam Patel and Sakshi Dayal; editing by YP Rajesh and Mark Heinrich