ALREADY beset by punishing heat, Thailand and Malaysia may see even higher temperatures over the weekend, sparking worries about possible heatwaves in both countries.
The Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) predicted that temperatures in Bangkok would hit 41 degrees Celsius today due to a low pressure system hanging over northern Thailand, reported the Bangkok Post. Some experts had forecast a figure of 42 degrees Celsius instead.
Experts predicted Bangkok would reach 42 degrees today but they were wrong – it's only going to be 41.
Such a relief!
— Phil / Ajarn.com (@Ajarncom) March 17, 2016
The last time Bangkok hit 41 degrees Celsius was in March 2012 and 2013. Meteorological authorities also predicted daily highs of 34 degrees Celsius for the weekend. The eyebrow-raising figures are causing concern over possible heatwaves.
According to the Bangkok Post, a Thai university lecturer predicted that Thailand would experience the hottest temperatures in all of Southeast Asia between Thursday and Saturday.
Jiraphol Sinthunava, an academic at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies, warned that a severe heatwave may be imminent. He defined it as a situation where temperatures exceed 42 degrees Celsius for over 24 hours coupled with relative humidity that tops 70 percent.
He blamed the hot weather on an unusually warm air mass over the Pacific Ocean – the hottest recorded in the last 50 years.
Thailand has been struggling with a drought for months now, with the crisis looking to be the worst in 20 years. Recently, desperation forced Thai authorities to cut short the country’s famous Songkran water festival in order to conserve water. With little rain, water at key dams have been at critical levels. Having to deal with the massive demand for water, the government scrambled to drill thousands of new wells.
In neighboring Malaysia, authorities have been contending with sizzling weather as well, thanks to the El Nino phenomenon. The situation is perceived to be so serious that the government is setting up a special committee to handle hot and dry weather matters. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak indicated that schools may even be ordered to close if the hot spell persists.
Relief from the heat does not seem to be imminent. Especially searing temperatures are predicted in Malaysia this Sunday, March 20 – the date of the equinox, when the sun sits directly over the equator.
According to The Star, a minister said a heatwave could occur if temperatures persist over 35 degrees Celsius for five consecutive days, or 37 degrees Celsius for three straight days.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau said the highest temperature recently recorded was 38.5 degrees Celsius – the peak temperature in Alor Setar (a northern Malaysian city) and Chuping (a small town also in the north) on Thursday.
That comes as no surprise as authorities had declared a heatwave in the northern region of the Malaysian peninsula just last week.
Even Malaysian wildlife are doing their best to escape the heat. According to Bernama, authorities said they received a markedly higher number of complaints about snakes taking shelter at homes. The reptiles are believed to be fleeing the heat as well as bush and forest fires.