BANGKOK — Thailand’s current soaring heat will continue until the end of summer, experts say. Scorching temperatures, which have felt like more than 50 degrees Celsius mixed with the humidity, have forced local authorities to warn people not to go outside over the weekend.
The Thai Meteorological Department had warned about rising temperatures across the country. Saturday’s highest heat index – which measures what the temperature feels like due to humidity – had forecast nearly 54° C in the eastern province of Chonburi and on the resort island of Phuket in southern Thailand.
Bangkok has regularly seen temperatures of about 37° Celsius in recent days, although with the humidity it has felt like over 40. On Sukhumvit Road on Sunday, residents used umbrellas as shade from the scorching sun while others chose to find respite through the city’s overhead train line and skyscrapers.
Some local and foreign tourists braved the heat, using handmade fans to cool down while visiting Bangkok’s Erawan Shrine, a Hindu shrine popular for prayer and traditional dance performances.
One female street vendor outside the shrine simply said, “So hot,” when speaking to VOA. Thai workers preparing Marigolds for tourists ate iced lollipops while laboring near an electric fan to cool down.
Recent heat records
The hot weather continues from last week when Thailand topped 45° C for the first time, according to professional climatologist and weather historian, Maximiliano Herrera, who runs the “Extreme Temperatures Around the World” weather monitor. Herrera used data from the Meteorological Department.
The recent heat has also seen electricity consumption records broken, with the country consuming more than 39,000 megawatts on April 6, compared to 32,000 megawatts in April 2022, according to government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri.
According to experts, Thailand’s current high temperature doesn’t constitute a heat wave.
Somkuan Tonjan, director of the Weather Inspection and Surveillance Division at Thailand’s Meteorological Department told local broadcaster Thai PBS, it is Thailand’s neighboring countries that have had heat waves since the beginning of April.
“It’s not like a heat wave like what happened in India and Bangladesh where temperatures topped 40° C for several days, and the accumulation of heat and the average temperature has increased as high as 5° C per day.”
In India, reports say more than a dozen people have died because of the soaring heat, while many more have been hospitalized. Thailand has seen two deaths, according to reports, including that of a police officer directing traffic just south of Bangkok. Other parts of Asia are reporting rising temperatures this month, including China, Laos, Pakistan, and Vietnam.
April and May – before the rainy season begins – are typically the hottest months of the year for Southeast Asia. In recent days, Thailand’s Meteorological Department has said the country is now approaching the end of the hot season and summer will end by mid-May, the Bangkok Post reports.
Bangkok has already seen summer storms this week, with some rainfall cooling the city.
But Chaowat Siwapornchai, a meteorologist in Bangkok, told VOA that the hot temperatures can still be expected indefinitely.
“In Thailand, April is the hottest month of the year. For the past few weeks, Thailand has experienced a hot spell which is an above-average temperature event but not extreme as the heatwave, especially in the north and the northeast. The fading away of La Nina and a high probability of El Nino developing later this year, I would expect normal to above normal temperatures for the rest of the summer,” Siwapornshai said.
The La Nina phenomenon is the natural cooling of the water in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years yet affects weather changes worldwide. The El Nino pattern does the opposite, warm surface water, that brings drier weather and reduced rainfall, contributing to extreme heat in Southeast Asia.
The weather is not the only heat source Thailand has to face. The country has been putting our fires, quite literally, in recent weeks.
Thailand has seen several forest fires across the country in the last month, including in Nakhon Nayok province northeast of Bangkok. In the north of the country, such as in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, forest fires have forced authorities to declare several areas wildfire crisis zones.
And Thailand’s traditional smoky season has also amplified fires across the country.
To prepare for the next crop season, many Thai farmers illegally burn their fields from January to March, leading to lingering thick, smog. The practice has contributed to Thailand having some of the world’s worst air quality in recent months. Seasonal PM2.5 dust – the most dangerous form of haze pollution – has soared in recent years and often leads to health issues among locals.
Ploy Pattanun Achakulwisut, a research fellow with the Stockholm Environment Institute, Asia Center, told VOA via email that Thailand is facing a “double whammy” of health crises.
“Climate change and air pollution are two different public health crises we are facing in Thailand and Southeast Asia, but they both share two major root causes — namely, burning fossil fuels and agricultural burning (along with other land-use practices) that lead to the release of global-warming pollutants (like carbon dioxide) and creation of dangerous levels of air pollutants (like PM2.5, ozone) that cause premature death and illnesses. For example, outdoor agricultural workers in the north are facing a double whammy of extreme heat.”
Source : VOA News