Pray for Shade: Heat Wave Sets a Record in India


    People weren’t frying eggs on the sidewalks in Phalodi during India’s hottest day ever — in fact, it was so hot that many did not venture out at all.

    Heat is a familiar part of life in Phalodi, in the deserts of Rajasthan, so residents were following a familiar drill even before temperatures soared to 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday: When the heat comes, stay indoors, chug buttermilk and, if you must go out, cover your head and pray for shade. It is a drill that may prove ever more necessary if temperatures continue to rise.

    Scientists say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at a high pace, averageglobal temperatures could rise by more than six degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

    “Climate change is obviously going to be playing a role,” said Andrew Robertson, a senior research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.

    May is typically the hottest month in much of India, Dr. Robertson said, with lots of sun and stagnating high-pressure air leading to broiling temperatures.

    The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted a severe heat wave for parts of western India over the next two days. Extreme heat was also forecast across central and northern India into next week, though officials say another record high is unlikely.

    The heat is amplified by an accompanying drought across much of the country. As farmers await the rains of this season’s monsoon, they continue to struggle with the effects of inadequate rainfall from the last monsoon: negligible crop yields, scarce drinking water and emaciated cattle.