High heat, drought to take toll on Thailand
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High heat, drought to take toll on Thailand

‘Feels like’ temperature hits 54C in Bang Na, people urged to avoid going outdoors

The Kaeng Lawa reservoir in Ban Phai district of Khon Kaen dried up as severe drought hit the district and other areas in the Northeast in 2019. (File photo)
The Kaeng Lawa reservoir in Ban Phai district of Khon Kaen dried up as severe drought hit the district and other areas in the Northeast in 2019. (File photo)

Summer is expected to end by the middle of next month, while the impact of El Niño, including drought, is predicted to take its toll on Thailand by around the middle of June, the Meteorological Department said on Friday.

Authorities on Saturday warned residents across large swathes of the country, including Bangkok, to avoid going outdoors due to extreme heat.

Although the maximum temperature had previously been forecast to peak at 43C this summer, the highest temperatures are now expected to continue above 40C for the rest of the summer, said Somkhwan Tanchan, director of the department’s Meteorological Observations Division.

The average maximum has been around 40C since the beginning of this month, due in part to the impact of a low-pressure trough, not a heat wave — which has been the experience of India and Bangladesh since early April, he said.

Mr Somkhwan added that the severity of this year’s upcoming drought, as compared to the situations in 2019 and 2020, is even more concerning and may result in another rash of high temperatures in Thailand this year.

The department also warned of serious health impacts due to the persistent high heat.

The heat index or “feels like” temperature peaked on Friday at 54C in Bang Na district of Bangkok, Chon Buri and Phuket, said Chomphari Chomphurat, director-general of the Meteorological Department.

The heat index is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.

A heat index of between 41 and 54C is associated with a high risk of heat stroke in cases of prolonged exposure to the heat, she said, citing information published by the Department of Health.

An index of more than 54C comes with an extremely high risk of heat stroke, she said.

Bang Na in Bangkok, as well as the provinces of Chon Buri and Phuket, had a high heat index because of high humidity as they are very close to the sea, she said.

This high heat situation is expected to continue until Sunday, while extreme weather, including thunderstorms, is expected from next Monday to Thursday.

The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said temperatures would exceed 40C in at least 28 provinces on Saturday.

Temperatures for official record-keeping purposes are taken in the shade. The highest temperature ever officially recorded in the country was 44.6C, in Muang district of Mae Hong Son on April 28, 2016. That mark was equalled in Mae Sot, Tak this week.

Recent extreme heat has smashed electricity consumption records, with the country consuming more than 39,000 megawatts on April 6, surpassing the previous record of 32,000 megawatts in April last year, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said.

“What is happening right now is caused by climate change, influencing abnormal (weather) and a phenomenon that is called extreme weather,” Mathinee Yucharoen, a researcher of coastal oceanography and climate change at Prince of Songkhla University, told Reuters.

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