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Celsius 40.8 and climbing

Hot, hotter and hottest has been April’s progression on the Celsius charts this year, the decade’s second-highest temperature of 40.8 degrees on Wednesday leaving the door ajar for a new record in the next 48 hours.

“The temperature is likely to increase over the next two days to reach around 41 degrees. The air will continue to be dry as well,” said Gokul Chandra Debnath, director of the India Meteorological Department, Calcutta.

The temperature rose from 40 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, five notches above normal, to hit 40.8, six degrees above normal, a little after 2.30pm on Wednesday. Only once in the past 10 years had an April day been hotter. On April 19, 2009, the temperature was 41.2 degrees Celsius.

Weather scientists warned that there was more than an outside chance of the 2009 record being breached during this heatwave, the season’s second.

“I felt unwell after a five-minute walk to the taxi stand even though I was carrying an umbrella and had wrapped my dupatta around my face. My eyes burned inside the taxi, forcing me to roll up the windows,” said 32-year-old Banani Basu, headed for Sector V.

If the Delhi-like dry heat left Calcuttans dizzy on Wednesday, worse seems to be in store. According to the Met office, there is no weather system near the city at the moment that can reverse the trend of the weather getting hotter and drier by the day.

Minimum relative humidity, which reflects the moisture content in the air during daytime, fell from 28 to 20 per cent on Wednesday, making the city drier still and reducing the possibility of rain. Heat and humidity are prerequisites for the formation of thunderclouds at this time of the year.

“There is usually a high-pressure belt in the Bay of Bengal near the Bengal-Odisha coast at this time of the year, which pushes moisture inland. We also see cyclonic circulations forming on land and pulling moisture from the sea. But no such system exists at the moment,” Debnath said.

Satellite pictures showed a high-pressure belt positioned south of the usual location and far into the Bay, because of which the “continental landmass” isn’t deriving any moisture out of it. Debnath said cyclonic circulations in north and central India had pushed the pressure belt south.

A “slight chance” of a high-pressure belt forming close to the Odisha coast by Friday is the only thing to look forward to for Calcutta, weather scientists said. If that doesn’t happen, the maximum temperature could surpass 41 degrees over the weekend.

Wednesday saw the Celsius close to 30 degrees as early as 5.30am and it kept rising, reaching 38.6 by 11.30am and 40.5 by 2.30pm. The low minimum relative humidity did little to lower the discomfort index, which at 2.30pm read 64.3 degrees Celsius, nine notches above normal.

Two men, one of them a beggar, collapsed on the road on Tuesday evening and were taken to RG Kar Medical College, where they were declared “brought dead”. The hospital said it couldn’t immediately confirm if the duo, one aged 40 and the other 45, died of heatstroke. “We are awaiting the post-mortem reports,” an official said.