Heatwave in India

Heatwave in India

In early June 2019, an intense heatwave scorched northern India. Some regions experienced temperatures surpassing 45°C (113°F) for the better part of three weeks. On June 10, Delhi reached its hottest day on record for the month, reaching 48°C (118°F).

The map above shows temperatures on June 10 in India and Pakistan, which has also been experiencing hot and dry conditions in the past two months. The map was derived from the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS) model, and represents air temperatures at 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) above the ground. The GEOS-5 model, like all weather and climate models, uses mathematical equations that represent physical processes (like precipitation and cloud processes) to calculate what the atmosphere will do. Actual measurements of physical properties, like temperature, moisture, and winds, are routinely folded into the model to keep the simulation as close to measured reality as possible.

May and June are generally some of the hottest months for this region, but the number of heatwaves—especially during May—has been increasing, according to India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences. Eleven of India’s 15 warmest years have occurred since 2004. 2018 was the sixth-warmest year for the country since record-keeping started in 1901.

In 2019, sparse rainfall during the pre-monsoon season, along with a delayed monsoon, have made the heat more unbearable. Monsoon weather has been running about a week late in its journey across the southeast Bay of Bengal. Monsoon rains finally arrived in parts of southern India around June 8 (about seven days later than usual). Delhi has also experienced some temperature dips due to rain on June 11-12, as well as a dust storm. However, monsoon season may not fully develop in north or central India until early July (later than normal).

Meteorologists expect a near-normal monsoon season on the whole, but northwestern India and Pakistan are predicted to experience a drier-than-normal season.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC. Story by Kasha Patel.

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