Record-Breaking Heat Sears Southern Asia

Rajasthan's Thar Desert, located in northwest India. Image credit: Daniel Mennerich via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Southern Asia is on the tail-end of one of the worst heat waves seen in this region of the world in modern history, with several countries over the past few weeks measuring the hottest temperatures they’ve ever recorded. The historic warmth started in southeastern Asia during the middle of April, and the stifling heat has spread into India in recent days.

The brutality of this heat wave can seem oddly timed to those of us in the United States. We’re entering the waning days of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when we expect the warmth and humidity of summer to greet us more frequently than the cool and comfortable days of the not-too-distant past. Even though it’s getting toasty enough to flip on the air conditioner in some regions, the spring we see here isn’t the spring our hemispheric neighbors experience around the world.

April, May, and June are typically the hottest months in southern Asia, where it never really gets all that cool to begin with. It would keep getting hotter through the summer if it weren’t for the monsoon, a seasonal pattern that brings clouds and ample rainfall that help to keep extreme temperatures at bay.

Clear skies over southern Asia allowed the afternoon sun to send temperatures soaring into the triple digits. Image Credit: NASA

This heat wave is the result of a persistent ridge of high pressure stuck over the region, occasionally nudging east (baking southeastern Asia) and jogging back west, where it’s now roasting India.

We tend to use the term “heat wave” loosely these days, but this event wasn’t fooling around. Several countries saw the hottest temperatures they’ve ever officially measured—mostly by just a hair—including a reading of 108.1°F in Laos on April 13 and 108.7°F in Cambodia two days later. Many other countries in the area saw similar (or even warmer) temperatures, but they fell just shy of breaking their all-time high-temperature records.

India also broke its nationwide all-time high temperature on May 19, when the official thermometer in Phalodi saw a high of 123.8°F, beating the previous all-time heat record of an even 123°F set nearby back in 1960. The unlucky town is located almost smack in the middle of the Thar Desert, a few hundred miles west of New Delhi and near the country’s border with Pakistan.

Phalodi’s 123.8°F reading approaches the upper bounds of the type of raw heat the weather is able to generate. Death Valley in California holds the world record for hottest temperature ever verifiably and accurately recorded, where the weather station in the southern California desert measured a high of 134°F on July 10, 1913. Including the Death Valley temperature, the United States has only officially seen two temperatures as hot as what Phalodi experienced during this heat wave: Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and Laughlin, Nevada, recorded temperatures of 128°F and 125°F respectively during a particularly brutal spell on June 29, 1994.

Aside from a brief reprieve (such as it was) from the heat brought about by Cyclone Roanu as it grazed India’s east coast, the intense spell of temperatures higher than 100°F will continue across much of central and northern India, as well as the deserts of Pakistan, through the beginning of June. 

The Northern Lights May Be Visible Over Parts of America Tonight

The Northern Lights are rarely visible in the continental U.S., but Americans living in the Upper Midwest and New England occasionally catch a glimpse. Tonight, March 14, may mark one such occasion, according to Thrillist.

Thanks to a mild geomagnetic storm on March 14 and 15, the aurora borealis could be visible as far south as Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine, the National Space Weather Prediction Center (SPWC) reports. The storm has been rated as a G1 geomagnetic storm, the weakest rating on a scale from G1 to G5, meaning it probably won’t disrupt power grids or satellites.

If you don’t live within the U.S.’s higher latitudes, you’ll have to be content with watching videos of the spectacular phenomenon.

If you do live along the country’s northern tier near the Canadian border, you can check the SPWC’s 30-minute aurora forecast to get a better sense of where the Northern Lights might appear in the sky in the near future.

[h/t Thrillist]

Nancy Rothhammer Dietrich
This Just In
Thanks to Winter Storms, a New Jersey Beach’s Famous ‘Ghost Tracks’ Have Reappeared
Nancy Rothhammer Dietrich
Nancy Rothhammer Dietrich

Powerful storms have a way of unearthing history in unexpected ways, from Civil War cannonballs—uncovered in South Carolina by Hurricane Matthew in 2016—to the oldest human footprints outside of Africa, found in England after storms in 2013. In New Jersey, recent nor'easters have revealed rarely seen railroad tracks dating back more than 100 years, as reports (and which you can see in the video below).

The so-called “ghost tracks” in the sand between Sunset Beach and Higbee Beach in southern New Jersey were originally used to carry sand and munitions in the early 1900s. One part of the track, built in 1905, transported sand from the beach and dunes to a nearby sorting facility for the Cape May Sand Company. During World War I, Bethlehem Steel Company used another part of the tracks to transport munitions down the beach to test their power, according to The Press of Atlantic City.

This isn’t the only not-too-distant time that storm-shifted sands have made the tracks visible to beachgoers. After eight decades under the sand, they first appeared in November 2014, but were soon buried again. A storm uncovered a section of track in November 2017, though it too disappeared within a few months.

The whole section of railroad isn’t usually visible at once. According to, the part of the tracks uncovered by recent storms are more intact and level than the parts unearthed in 2017. It’s likely that future storms and shifting tides will reveal portions of the railroad again, but it’s hard to say which lengths will be uncovered or how deteriorated they might be. You can be sure that local photographers will be on the lookout during the next storm, though.



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