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Extraordinary Heat Wave Sweeps Southeast Asia and Points Beyond

By: Christopher C. Burt, 6:47 PM GMT on April 19, 2016

Extraordinary Heat Wave Sweeps Southeast Asia and Points Beyond

What is most likely the most intense heat wave ever observed in Southeast Asia has been ongoing for the past several weeks. All-time national heat records have been observed in Cambodia, Laos, and (almost) in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Meanwhile extreme heat has resulted in all-time record high temperatures in the Maldives, India, China, and portions of Africa as well. Here are the details. SEE UPDATES for APRIL 28 BELOW: THAILAND BREAKS NATIONAL RECORD!



850 mb temperature anomaly for eastern Asia during the April 1-15 time frame in K°. Virtually the entire region has seen much above average temperatures for at least the past two weeks. NOAA/ESRL map courtesy of Stu Ostro at The Weather Channel.

Southeast Asia

We all assumed that the strong El Nino this year would result in drought and high temperatures in Southeast Asia. It seems that although El Nino didn’t work out so well for California (precipitation–wise) the expected impact of the system over performed in Southeast Asia where all-time heat records have been broken and a withering drought is in progress. Maximiliano Herrera, the foremost climatologist investigating world temperature records, has provided the following statistics. These figures are confirmed by the respective meteorological agencies that maintain their countries climate data.

Cambodia

National all-time record high of 42.6°C (108.7°F) set at Preah Vihea on April 15th. This surpassed the record set just two days previously at Bantey Ampil (42.2°C/108.0°F on April 13th). Prior to this year, the maximum measured temperature in Cambodia was 41.4°C (106.5°F) at Stoeng Treng in 1960. The capital city of Phnom Penh also measured its highest temperature on record with a 41.0°C (105.8°F) reading and about half a dozen other cities and towns saw temperatures peak above the previous national record of 1960!

Laos

National all-time record high of 42.3°C (108.1°F) set at Seno on April 13th. This surpassed the former record of 42.0°C (107.6°F) record at Savannakhet in March 1933. An all-time national record high minimum temperature was measured at Takhek on April 13th when the low fell to only 30.5°C (86.9°F).

Thailand

Near national record achieved at Sukhothai on April 12th with a 44.3°C (111.7°F) reading just shy of the record 44.5°C (112.1°F) observed at Uttaradit on April 27, 1960. In addition to Sukhothai at least 50 Thai towns and cities broke or tied their all-time record maximum temperatures (including the normally temperate island resort of Ko Samui with a 38.0°C/100.4°F reading). The minimum of 31.4°C (88.5°F) at Sakhon Nakon on April 15th was likely the warmest low ever measured in the country outside of the Bangkok metropolitan area. UPDATE: An all-time national heat record has been set in Thailand on April 28th with a 44.6°C (112.4°F) at Mae Hong Son. Also, what is likely a national record high minimum was observed at Bhumibol Dam on April 27th with a 32.0°C (89.6°F) reading.



Weather data for the past month at the ancient Thai capital city of Sukhothai. Note that every day since April 2nd has exceeded 100°F (37.8°C) and nine consecutive days above 41.7°C (107.1°F) so far this month. The normal daily high for this time of the year is around 36.5°C (97.7°F). Table from OGIMET.

Malaysia

Near national record of 39.2°C (102.6F) measured at Batu Embun on April 10th (the hottest temperature ever measured in central Malaysia). The all-time Malaysian record is 40.1°C (104.2°F) at Chuping on April 9, 1998. In March this year Chuping reached 39.5°C (103.1°F).

Singapore

Near national record set in Singapore with a 36.6°C (97.9°F) at Pulau on April 13th. Record for the city-state is 37.0°C (98.6°F) at Tengah on April 17, 1983.

Myanmar

Unfortunately, recent weather data from Myanmar has been sketchy at best, although at least one city, Dawei, has broken its all-time heat record with a 39.0°C (102.2°F) reading. There have been several 46.0°C (114.8°F) reports but it is not known at this time if these were the actual daily maximums. The all-time heat record for Myanmar is 47.2°C (117.0°F) at Myinmu on May 14, 2010 (the beginning of one of Asia’s greatest heat waves).

Vietnam

The real story for Vietnam has been the historic drought (said to be the worst in 100 years) that has impacted the fertile Mekong Delta region (and also the rest of mainland Southeast Asia). So far the warmest temperature measured in the country has been 41.8°C (107.2°F) at Tuong Duong on April 15th. The same site holds Vietnam’s all-time heat record of 42.7°C (108.9°F) set on May 12, 1966.



A Drought Risk Index map of the Mekong River Basin. The areas in red are those that have been most impacted by the El Nino-driven drought that is occurring now in the region. Map produced by FutureWater (a research and consultancy firm specializing in drought issues).

Philippines

Mindanao Island observed its highest temperature on record at General Santos with a 39.4°C (102.9°F) reading on April 16th. This is a long way from the national record of 42.2°C (108.0°F) set at Tuguegarao in April, 1912 and May 1969, but is indicative of how far east the heat progressed.

All in all, the on-going heat wave is easily the most intense such to affect Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia since at least 1960 and probably even more so.

Heat Waves outside Southeast Asia this April

Although the heat wave in Southeast Asia deserves the closest attention, all-time national heat records have also been set for the Maldives Islands, India, China and in Africa. China’s southernmost province of Hainan (Island) saw several sites breaking all-time heat records with the warmest being Danxian with a 40.5°C (104.9°F) reading on April 16th. In India the city of Kozhikode (Calicut), located on the usually temperate coastline of Kerala State (southeastern India) saw its temperature peak at a record 39.1°C (102.4°F) smashing its previous record high of 37.2°C (99.0°F). Astonishingly, this former record has been broken 35 times so far this year and counting! The POR at Kozhikode goes back to the 1870s. Temperatures in the normally hotter locations in India have reached as high as 46.0°C (114.8°F) so far (at Sundargarh and Bankura on April 16th).

UPDATE April 24th The city of Titlagarh measured 48.5°C (119.3°F) on April 24th. This is the highest reliably measured temperature in India for the month of April. In addition, Bangalore recorded its all-time hottest temperature on record with a 39.2°C (102.6°F) reading beating out its previous record of 38.9°C (102.0°F) observed on May 22, 1931. The city has a very long POR and rests at some 900m (3300') above sea level. It is also well known as the 'Silicon Valley' of India. Expect to see many more heat records broken in India as it approaches its normally hottest month of May. The hottest reliably measured temperature in India on record is 50.6°C (123.1°F) at Pachpadra, Rajastan on May 25, 1886.

In the Maldives a national record high of 34.9°C (94.8°F) was observed at Hanimadhoo on April 16th edging out the previous record of 34.8° (94.6°F) set at Kadhdhoo on March 27, 1999. In Africa Burkina Faso set its all-time national record high with a 47.5°C (117.5°F) temperature on April 13th. The previous record was 47.2°C (117.0°F) at the same site on May 13, 1984. In Guinea Bissau a new national record may have been set on April 12th at Bafata when the temperature at one point in the day reached at least 43.2°C (109.8°F) before the station shut down (so the actual daily maximum is not known). The record for the country stands at 43.6°C (110.5°F) at Bafata on March 18, 1969. This was just one of a series of frustrating weather station failures over the past several months where near-national record highs may have been obtained but the daily data remained incomplete.



Walvis Bay, Namibia on the usually chilly shores of the South Atlantic Ocean in southern Africa, saw a record high of 42.8°C (109.0°F) at its airport location on April 15th. The normal daytime high in April here is 19.1°C (66.4°F). Photo by Mark van Aard.

The heat waves are still in progress and more records over at least the next month are likely.

KUDOS: To Maximiliano Herrera for the above information. For a more comprehensive look at all the temperature records broken so far this year see his web site here.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Heat

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Frightening in its scope. Thanks for this post Chris.
Bhubaneshwar, India had recorded a max. of 45.8 C on 11th April breaking the previous April record of 45 C in 1985.
Source - IMD and Ogimet
Wow, a really frying row of hot numbers! Thanks for the report, and compassionate thoughts to the folks living in this hot and dry mess (how many of those poor got A/Cs?). And then there is the economical loss:
Reuters Video: Severe drought threatens Vietnam's economy
What about Calgary in Canada? It hit 92 in some places which is 40 degrees above the average high!!! Correct me if im wrong, but holy smokes!!!!
Quoting 2. Vebz25:

Bhubaneshwar, India had recorded a max. of 45.8 C on 11th April breaking the previous April record of 45 C in 1985.
Source - IMD and Ogimet


It's not a record,the absolute record is 46.5C set on 22 May 1972.
The 45.8C is just a monthly record, as dozens of others recorded in India in the past couple of months or the thousands recorded in Southeast Asia (from several dozens to several hundreds each day for the past 2 months).
Kozhikode previous all times record was 37.2C set on 14 April 1967 and on 17 May 1920.
Quoting 4. RobbieM2000:

What about Calgary in Canada? It hit 92 in some places which is 40 degrees above the average high!!! Correct me if im wrong, but holy smokes!!!!


The maximum temperature in Calgary yesterday was 81.5 F / 27.5 C. That's the hottest that it has been there so far this year.
Quoting 6. maxcrc:

Kozhikode previous all times record was 37.2C set on 14 April 1967 and on 17 May 1920.


That should change the number of days on which that record has been surpassed so far this year.
No, the figure I quoted earlier (for their previous hottest temp on record) was wrong. I corrected this thanks to Max (see his comment). So the "35 times previous record beaten" figure still stands, although perhaps some change in the location or an instrument error could account for this. If the data is true then this is the most times (35) in a single year that a previous all-time heat record has been broken at a site anywhere in the world with a long time POR.
Quoting 9. DCSwithunderscores:



That should change the number of days on which that record has been surpassed so far this year.
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SAP training in Chennai
SINGAPORE - NEW RECORD HOTTEST DAY: April 19, 2016 is reportedly the record hottest calendar day in Singapore, with a day / night average temperature of 30.6 C / 87.1 F at Singapore's reference station, Changi.

Link
All the more remarkable is that just a few months ago this region experienced a once-in-a-lifetime cold spell! I was always under the impression that the temperatures in southeast Asia are pretty much the same year-round.
You are spot on there NJTom. I was in Chiang Mai during the cold wave of Jan. 24-28 this year and no one there had ever experienced something like this--a cold wave with precipitation. (I have spent every winter in CM since 1978). Snow for sure fell on Doi Inthanon (the first time snowfall ever has fallen in Thailand for at least 200 years) but there is no weather station on the peak and I couldn't reach it since the highway to the summit was closed.
Quoting 14. NJTom:

All the more remarkable is that just a few months ago this region experienced a once-in-a-lifetime cold spell! I was always under the impression that the temperatures in southeast Asia are pretty much the same year-round.
It's been a particularly cold Spring in Great Britain so far after a mild Winter. The last week has seen temperatures rarely rise above 10C with frosts as far south as London - unusual for Late April.
Quoting 16. Putnoe123:

It's been a particularly cold Spring in Great Britain so far after a mild Winter. The last week has seen temperatures rarely rise above 10C with frosts as far south as London - unusual for Late April.

A bit below the 1981-2010 normal, yes, that would be highly unusual...
Quoting 15. weatherhistorian:

You are spot on there NJTom. I was in Chiang Mai during the cold wave of Jan. 24-28 this year and no one there had ever experienced something like this--a cold wave with precipitation. (I have spent every winter in CM since 1978). Snow for sure fell on Doi Inthanon (the first time snowfall ever has fallen in Thailand for at least 200 years) but there is no weather station on the peak and I couldn't reach it since the highway to the summit was closed.


I investigated some historical events in the past, with the scant information and i see a chance of a similar event in February 1836 and before in January 1654, but we can't say for sure whether it snowed on the Inthanon on those occasions.
The XX century coldest spells (1924, 1955, 1974 and 1999) were all accompanied by mostly dry conditions, freezing minima but not so low maxima and mostly no precipitation, except for a graupel storm wrongly depicted as "snow" (you remember the case, didn't you ?).
India has witnessed the absolute records (for any month) of highest temperatures in two of its States: Andaman and Nicobar where Long Island recorded 37.6C on 12 April and Kerala where Palakkad has recorded 41.9C on 26 April.
Quoting 20. maxcrc:

India has witnessed the absolute records (for any month) of highest temperatures in two of its States: Andaman and Nicobar where Long Island recorded 37.6C on 12 April and Kerala where Palakkad has recorded 41.9C on 26 April.


There are conflicting media articles on that, with some stating that the 41.9 C is a new record and some stating that it is not new. This article states that 41.9 C was also reached in Kerala in 2010.

Link
Quoting 21. DCSwithunderscores:



There are conflicting media articles on that, with some stating that the 41.9 C is a new record and some stating that it is not new. This article states that 41.9 C was also reached in Kerala in 2010.

Link


Maybe...but I don't see this 2010 record in any of the IMD stations list (and there are several hundreds). Perhaps it was in a state station not under the control of IMD or the state deparment of water (which also manages some stations in other states). I would like to see a station name and date to be able to check.
NORTHERN TERRITORY, AU & ITS CAPITOL - NEW RECORD HOTTEST WET SEASON: November 2015 to April 2016 is reportedly the record hottest wet season in Northern Territory, Australia and in Darwin, which is NT's capitol and most populous city.

Link
On 3 May 2016 the disputed territory of the Spratly Islands recorded its highest temperature ever with 36.2C at Truong Sa.
The day before 2 May, Car Nicobar improved again the record of the highest temperature ever in the Nicobar Islands with 35.5C.

In the other hands, Australia sets dozens and dozens of monthly records for May and it was close to the national record of May.
Nipawin, Saschatchewan, Canada recorded 91.4F today May 4th besting their previous record high for the date of 73F by 18F. . Not sure I have ever seen a site beat their record daily high by such a wide margin. Caveat: I'm not sure of the POR for this site (located just north of 5330' N latitude).

Quoting 26. weatherhistorian:

Nipawin, Saschatchewan, Canada recorded 91.4%uFFFDF today May 4th besting their previous record high for the date of 73%uFFFDF by 18%uFFFDF. . Not sure I have ever seen a site beat their record daily high by such a wide margin. Caveat: I'm not sure of the POR for this site (located just north of 53%uFFFD30' N latitude).




Weather data for Nipawin appears to go back to 1927.
Quoting 26. weatherhistorian:

Nipawin, Saschatchewan, Canada recorded 91.4%uFFFDF today May 4th besting their previous record high for the date of 73%uFFFDF by 18%uFFFDF. . Not sure I have ever seen a site beat their record daily high by such a wide margin. Caveat: I'm not sure of the POR for this site (located just north of 53%uFFFD30' N latitude).




It's curious, but climatically it's meaningless , it's just a numerical curiosity, daily records have no significance climatically , specially for stations with very few years of data like Nipawin. Few years ago another Canadian station beat its "daily record" by over 20F, but with a much longer POR (several decades). But still, it 's just a matter of chance, the day before and after the records were much higher. This occurrs when a continental climate is affected by short periods of heat (like in this case chinook effect which might last hours or 1-2 days). It's only chance if those temperature peaks fall into one day or the other. We should have at least 1000 years of POR for a daily record to have any climatic importance beyond the sheer chance, but in 1000 years the climate itself changes, so daily records themselves are an absolute waste of time, EXCEPT when they are combined to find some interesting curiosities like "the earliest xxxx reading" "the latest xxx" and so on.....in those cases it's not just a daily record, but a combination of them used for a more significative purpose.
Awesome entry ! Thanks for ringing the alarm and keep connecting the dots, and long live Maximiliano Herrera :-)
On April 18, 2016, Seattle, WA set a new all time max for April. The old record was 85 F the new record 89 F. Additionally, Seattle recorded 4 consecutive days of 80 or more in April. The old record was 2 consecutive days. Yesterday, May 7 Seattle set a new daily max of 82 degrees. Today, a strong marine push will bring Seattle temps back to near normal or even a bit below but the ridge is expected to return and by Wednesday it will back to 80+. Also, it was the warmest April of record.

Seattle has not recorded measurable snow for 2 consecutive winters, I believe that is a first.
weatherhistorian has created a new entry.