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Scorching heat

Updated May 04, 2018

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AN alarming heatwave has gripped many cities, with Nawabshah at the epicentre.

Temperatures in that city rose above 50°C, the highest recorded April temperature anywhere on the planet ever since meteorological data began to be maintained over 100 years ago.

This is a truly alarming development and yet another demonstration of the unprecedented climate anomalies.

The Met Office did its job early last month by forecasting that “heatwave conditions are likely to affect the major cities occasionally during the months of April and May”, but it was unable to say anything beyond this.

Heatwaves present greater challenges of forecasting than floods or unusual rainfall, but they are still not impossible to predict if the right models and meteorological data are used.

The complete silence with which this extreme weather event passed us by is another source of alarm.

Some might wonder what one can do in the face of such weather abnormalities. But the fact of the matter is that the meteorological authorities have to shout to be heard with regard to the dilapidated state of our weather-monitoring and forecasting infrastructure.

Pakistan is unusually vulnerable to changing weather patterns by virtue of its geography. Weather patterns need to be monitored from the east from where the moisture for the monsoon rains largely comes, as well as the west and south because winds from these directions interact in important ways with the monsoon system.

At the moment, there is very little infrastructure looking anywhere other than the east. This is important because mindsets at the top, regardless of party affiliation, see infrastructure solely in terms of brick and mortar, whether roads, airports, highways, or in the power sector.

Investments that upgrade our weather-monitoring and forecasting abilities are seen as little more than a distraction.

Such thinking has left the country increasingly susceptible to the vagaries of nature which is showing less and less mercy with each passing year.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2018