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5th straight warm night in Delhi, docs report spike in heat cases

Jun 19, 2024 05:46 AM IST

Delhi experiences oppressive heatwave with a record minimum temperature of 33.8°C, leading to a spike in heat-related illnesses. Relief expected with light rain.

The minimum temperature in Delhi touched 33.8°C on Tuesday, the highest it has been in June since 2018 and the fifth straight “warm night”, as an oppressive heatwave kept its stranglehold over the Capital, with healthcare professionals across the city reporting a sharp jump in heat-related illnesses and warning that the conditions may adversely affect even healthy people.

The maximum was 44°C — five above normal, even as the “Heat Index” or “real feel” temperature was 51°C, a notch higher than Monday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)
The maximum was 44°C — five above normal, even as the “Heat Index” or “real feel” temperature was 51°C, a notch higher than Monday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

Tuesday’s minimum at the Safdarjung base weather station was five degrees above normal and Delhi’s highest minimum in the month since June 13, 2018, when the mercury hit 34°C. The maximum, meanwhile, was 44°C — five above normal, even as the “Heat Index” or “real feel” temperature was 51°C, a notch higher than Monday.

For Safdarjung, this was the eighth heatwave day this month — the most in June in at least 13 years, IMD data available from 2011 showed.

Though the maximum dropped from 45.2°C on Monday, the minimum shot up from 33.2°C, making it the hottest night of the season so far.

However, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted some respite from Wednesday, largely down to an approaching western disturbance and forecast very light rain, with gusty winds of up to 50 km/hour. Similar weather is expected on Thursday too.

Health impacts of heat pile on

The shortage of potable water in several parts of Delhi has also forced people to turn to unfiltered water, giving rise to a spike in the number of cases of water-borne diseases like typhoid, said experts.

According to Dr Satish Kaul, senior director of internal medicine at Fortis Gurugram, hospitals have reported an increase in the number of people walking in with distress caused by excessive heat.

“If one is thirsty in such extreme heat and does not have access to clean water, one may end up consuming water that is not clean. Thus, we are seeing a lot of cases of typhoid increase. The best solution is to avoid direct heat and heading out only if necessary. People need to plan their days accordingly and avoid peak heat hours,” said Dr Kaul.

He added that ventilation is key when it comes to clothing. “One should try to wear airy clothes and ensure proper ventilation wherever possible. These measures apart, it is advised that people spend less time in the kitchen, as they generally lack adequate ventilation or cooling,” said Dr Kaul.

Additionally, consuming liquids like buttermilk, jaljeera and other drinks rich in electrolytes and salts also helps mitigate the effects of severe heat.

Humidity on the rise

Delhi’s relative humidity on Tuesday oscillated between 24% and 51%. This was between 24% and 48% on Monday. The city’s wet-bulb temperature, another indicator of the comfort level outside, was between 27.1°C and 27.5°C. A wet-bulb temperature of 32°C or higher makes it difficult for even fit people to work outdoors for long and at a wet-bulb temperature of 35°C — the maximum threshold — humans can no longer regulate body temperatures, leading to heatstrokes and potential collapse.

IMD’s data for “warm nights” also shows this was the longest streak in the last 13 years, according to data available from 2011. The previous highest of three consecutive days was in 2018.

IMD classifies it as a “warm night” when the maximum temperature is over 40°C and the minimum temperature is 4.5°C or more above normal. The day is classified as one impacted by a “heatwave” when the maximum is over 40°C while also being 4.5°C or more above normal.

According to scientists, Wednesday’s relief will likely bring down the maximum a couple of notches. “During this spell [of rain], we may see the maximum drop to 42°C. The minimum may continue to stay around the range it is already in due to cloud cover at night, which may trap heat,” said an IMD official, adding that wind direction began to transition from dry westerly on Monday, to southwesterly on Tuesday, increasing the moisture content and humidity in the air.

HT reported on June 8 how this was Delhi’s driest start to the year since 2018, with only 44.7mm of rainfall recorded at Safdarjung between the first five months of this year. This is only 42% of the long-period average of 104.8mm, which Delhi’s base observatory receives in the first five months of the year. The last time Delhi received less rainfall in the corresponding time was 43.5mm in 2018.

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