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“More heat records expected in coming years”

Etienne Kapikian, a meteorologist, shares his observations on temperatures in Pakistan

“More heat records expected in coming years”

On Monday, April 30, 2018, temperature in Nawabshah soared to 50.2°Celsius, which was the highest temperature ever reliably measured on the planet during April. Nawabshah with a population of 1.1 million, is situated at a distance of 275km from Karachi. No one knew that Nawabshah has witnessed the hottest April to-date until pointed out by Etienne Kapikian.

Etienne Kapikian, a meteorologist by profession and a weather forecaster at Meteo-France in Paris in the media forecasting department, has been working there since 2006. Etienne possesses a master’s degree in meteorology from EcoleNationale de la Meteorologie, in Toulouse, France.

In an interview, Etienne Kapikian shared some of his insights regarding the unprecedented temperature increase in Nawabshah.

The News on Sunday (TNS): How were you able to figure out the temperature increase in Nawabshah?

Etienne Kapikian (ET): I have a personal interest in weather extremes and temperature records (which is not necessarily linked to my work at Meteo-France), therefore, I regularly check the ongoing weather events and extreme temperatures in the world and try to keep a database of these records, as far as I can. Specialists such as Maximiliano Herrera, with whom I am in touch, has been keeping an up-to-date and reliable database of world weather records and temperature extremes for years and years.

A few days before 50°C was recorded in Nawabshah. It was obvious that heat wave was building in Pakistan this late April 2018, and so I checked the maximum temperature data from the website of Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), and from other sources on the Internet (meteorological SYNOP data, where one can visualise on maps).

Pakistan is usually one of the hottest places in the world at the end of April (also the southern Arabic peninsula, the Sahara desert and some parts of Mexico can witness temperatures higher than 45°C at this time of the year), so of course I was watching temperatures in that area and it came as no surprise that some temperatures such as 47°C or 48°C were measured on 27, 28 and 29 April. But then, the mercury reached 50°C degree mark on April 30, which is one step further… (PMD’s website displayed maximum temperatures of 50.2°C at Nawabshah and 50°C at Jacobabad and also 49°C at Larkana, Padidan and Sukkur).

TNS: With temperatures crossing the 50°C mark, doesn’t this intrigue you?

EK: From the mind of a climate-enthusiast meteorologist, reaching the 50°C mark somewhere in the world in April obviously rings a bell. The previous Pakistan (and Asia) heat record for April was given to me by Herrera. Last year, Larkana reached 50°C on April 19, 2017, which was already a tied record for Pakistan and Asia. There also was a 50°C in Nawabshah on April 30, 2002.

However, according to Herrera, a temperature higher than 50°C was never recorded in April, thus making this 50.2°C a new record.

TNS: Has temperature ever crossed the 50.2°C benchmark in April anywhere else in the world?

EK: A temperature of 51°C was measured in Mexico in April 2001 but the quality of that data makes this figure not totally reliable. That is why people claimed 50.2°C in Nawabshah this April to be the highest reliable temperature ever measured in April in the world.

Of course, I might be wrong and may have missed another temperature higher than 50.2°C somewhere else, especially in a remote past as it is difficult to find data now.

TNS: Were extreme temperatures recorded in Pakistan in months other than April?

EK: Last year in 2017, some extreme temperatures were recorded in late May, one of the hottest months, along with June, as temperatures reached 53.5°C in Turbat on May 28, 2017 which tied the Pakistan all-time heat record for any month, with 53.5°C in Mohenjodaro on May 26,2010 and also the world and Asian heat record for the month of May.

TNS: What are the possibilities of new heat records in Pakistan?

EK: In the future, in a warming climate, it wouldn’t be surprising if these records are beaten in the coming years or decades. This is a global issue, not specific to Pakistan. As a matter of fact, in most countries, there are increasing chances of new heat records and less chances of cold records.


Syed Muhammad Abubakar

The writer is an environmental journalist. He Tweets @SyedMAbubakar and can be reached via [email protected]

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