Kolkata survived the hottest days in 59 years.
City on the Boil
By Nikita Grosser
Kolkata’s heat wave this May and June became a great cause for worry among its people as temperatures rose as high as 41.8 °C, six degrees above normal, in early May and the Met office issuing a heat wave warning for Saturday, May 9. This continued spell of heat has been the longest in 59 years - with the mercury staying around the 40°C mark for 10 days at a stretch. Heat had claimed seven lives in the city till mid May and has taken a toll on the city's children, with many complaints of weakness and mild fever. Some doctors however feel there is nothing to worry about. In fact, child specialist, Dr Subrata Chakraborty, told the Times of India, “There have been no cases of heat exhaustion among infants and children so far. There is nothing to panic about.”
The hottest day in Kolkata this summer was April 19, when the mercury touched 41.2°C. The highest temperature the city has recorded in recent years was on May 20, 2002, when the mercury soared to 43 °C, in what was otherwise a normal summer. However uncommon this particular heat spell seems, Met officials quoted in a local paper, do not think it is unusual for May to be this hot. Regional Meteorological Centre Director, G C Debnath insists, “The temperature hitting a high notch between two Nor’westers is a normal phenomenon. There is nothing unusual about the heat wave; every time the temperature rises like this, hot and dry wind from the western parts of the country gains in strength and moisture-laden wind from the south becomes weak." In another publication, Mr. Debnath explained, that this time, too, dry and warm wind from the west has been sweeping across south Bengal
But this high? In a single decade? The Kolkata Met office seems to be overlooking the fact that global warming plays a big role in climate change, as trees in Kolkata are being cut down mercilessly and the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from cars and factories continues to increase. What is worrying about this weather is that the high temperature is persisting over a long period of time. In other words, the climate is changing. "Earlier, even if the temperature crossed the 40° C mark for a day, it would soon drop by a few degrees. Now, the temperature persists above the 40° C mark for several days at a stretch. This is a disturbing trend. It is happening due to global warming and climate change. So, we are encouraging people to use eco-friendly tools like solar power and to conserve electricity," says S P Gon Choudhuri, MD of West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation. Undeniably global warming here, as in ever corner of the planet, has something to do with the abnormally high temperature. (As the ozone layer thins and ultraviolet rays, which are meant to bounce off the ozone layer and back into space, now reach the earth’s surface unfiltered - making the weather unbearably hot - Global Warming). Welcome to the City of Joy. You can now feel its warmth, more than ever before!