Extreme Temperature Diary- Thursday May 30th, 2024/Main Topic: New Delhi Reaches 52.3C\126F For the First Time in Recorded History

126 Degrees in India: New Delhi Sweats Through Its Hottest Day Ever Recorded – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

New Delhi Sweats Through Its Hottest Recorded Day

For weeks now, temperatures in several states in northern India have been well over 110, and hospitals have been reporting a rise in heatstroke.

Hari Kumar
Mujib Mashal

By Hari Kumar and Mujib Mashal

New Delhi recorded its highest temperature ever measured on Wednesday — 126 degrees Fahrenheit, or 52.3 degrees Celsius — leaving residents of the Indian capital sweltering in a heat wave that has kept temperatures in several Indian states well above 110 degrees for weeks.

In New Delhi, where walking out of the house felt like walking into an oven, officials feared that the electricity grid was being overwhelmed and that the city’s water supply might need rationing.

The past 12 months have been the planet’s hottest ever recorded, and cities like Miami are experiencing extreme heat even before the arrival of summer. Scientists said this week that the average person on Earth had experienced 26 more days of abnormally high temperatures in the past year than would have been the case without human-induced climate change.

Extreme heat can cause serious health issues and can be fatal.

Although late-afternoon dust storms and light drizzle in New Delhi had brought hope of some reprieve on Wednesday, the weather station at Mungeshpur, northwest of the capital, reported a recording of 126 degrees around 2:30 p.m. Dr. Kuldeep Srivastava, a scientist at the regional meteorological center in Delhi, said it was the highest temperature ever recorded by the automatic weather monitoring system, which was installed in 2010.

In a statement later on Wednesday evening, India’s meteorological department said the Mungeshpur station was “an outlier compared to other stations.” It said it was assessing whether that station’s recording of a higher temperature than other stations around Delhi was due to an error or a local mitigating factor.

The previous record for the highest temperature, around 48 degrees Celsius — about 118.5 Fahrenheit — was repeatedly crossed in recent days. Three of New Delhi’s weather stations reported temperatures of 49.8 degree Celsius — 121.8 degrees Fahrenheit — or higher on Tuesday, setting a new record even before the 52.3 degree reading on Wednesday afternoon.

For weeks now, temperatures in several states in India’s north have reached well over 110 degrees, and hospitals have been reporting an uptick in cases of heatstroke. In the Himalayan states, hundreds of forest fires have been reported.

Deadly fires in crowded buildings are regular occurrences in India, with many of them caused by short circuits. The rising temperatures have increased concerns about the risks.

Atul Garg, Delhi’s fire chief, said daily fire-related calls have crossed 200, the highest in the past decade.

“Normally during this period in the last eight to 10 years we would receive 160 calls per day,” Mr. Garg said. “We are stretched in terms of manpower.”

The heat wave has coincided with campaigning for India’s general election, with the last phase of voting set to take place on June 1. Candidates, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and opposition leaders, have continued holding large public rallies, despite the temperatures.

Nitin Gadkari, a cabinet minister who is running for re-election, fainted from the heat while addressing a rally, and on Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi, the opposition leader, took a break during a speech to pour water from a bottle onto his head.

“It’s quite hot, no?” he said.

To help conserve water amid the extreme heat, Atishi Marlena, Delhi’s water minister, announced the deployment of 200 teams to crack down on waste and misuse. Fines will be imposed for activities such as washing cars with hoses, “overflow of water tanks” and “use of domestic water for construction or commercial” purposes, she said.

Delhi’s lieutenant governor, V.K. Saxena, ordered measures to protect construction workers during the midday heat, and for water to be provided at bus stands.

The state broadcaster reported that Mr. Saxena, who was appointed by Mr. Modi, had also called for construction workers to get “paid leave” between noon and 3 p.m. But it did not say how that would be implemented, particularly at a moment when the capital region’s administration is paralyzed by infighting between its lieutenant governor and the elected chief minister.

Just how much the heat has affected daily life in the Indian capital was captured in the adjournment order of a consumer dispute court last week when the most intense period of the heat wave began.

The presiding official, Suresh Kumar Gupta, complained that the room had no air-conditioning, and the water supply in the bathrooms was also affected.

“There is too much heat in the courtroom, which led to sweating, as such it is difficult to hear arguments,” he said in the order. “In these circumstances, arguments cannot be heard, so case is adjourned.”

Jitender Singh, 42, an auto rickshaw driver in the eastern part of the city, said that business was down by about a third because people were avoiding leaving their homes. He said he and his colleagues had frequently fallen sick.

“But we must come on the road to support our families,” he added.

Hari Kumar covers India, based out of New Delhi. He has been a journalist for more than two decades. More about Hari Kumar

Mujib Mashal is the South Asia bureau chief for The Times, helping to lead coverage of India and the diverse region around it, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. More about Mujib Mashal

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