The month of February 2023 has been the hottest February in half a century. So, has Goa experienced a preview of what the summer ahead has in store for the state?
Going by the rising temperatures of February, Goa could be in for a torrid three months of March, April and May. The summer forecast from the Indian Meteorological Department is awaited and could be out this weekend.
Yet, February may have just given us a glimpse of what the weeks ahead are going to feel like.
If there have been complaints of February being unusually hot, then they have not been without any basis. The past month did indeed see a rise in temperatures, and the month of March has come upon us bringing with it the blazing heat of a February that Goa has seldom experienced temperature-wise.
No doubt, February has previously in the past seen some high temperatures, and this time temperatures climbed to 37.9 degrees Celsius in Panjim in mid-February.
This was not the highest recorded for the month, nor was it an aberration for the month, as there have been days in past months of February that have seen such temperatures.
Yet, it comes as no surprise that this February has been the hottest in fifty years. When one looks at the entire month of February this year, one does find that the temperatures have been higher than normal – perhaps even far higher than normal.
All that one has to look at is the weather bulletin that is released daily by the Goa Centre of the Indian Meteorological Department to understand what the weather has been like. It can be found on the IMD website.
The release for February 28 said that the maximum temperature was “above normal” in North Goa and “appreciably above normal” in South Goa.
The IMD defines “above normal” as 1.6 to 3.0 degrees Celsius above the known mean temperature, while “appreciably above normal” is defined as 3.1 to 5.0 degrees Celsius above the established temperature.
This “above normal” and “appreciably above normal” have appeared quite often during the past month as temperatures have crossed the mean mark in Goa.
To further illustrate this, take a look at the accompanying graph sourced from accuweather.com which shows the February temperatures for Goa. The red line is the average maximum temperature while the orange bars show the highest temperature recorded for each day.
There are only two days in the entire month on which the orange bars do not cross the red line of normal temperature, one of these just touching the normal.
What this signifies is that the temperature on 26 of the 28 days of February has been higher than normal. The question here is whether this is unusual.
The rising temperatures cannot be ignored, and they raise the question of whether we could soon be looking at a new normal for maximum and minimum temperatures that are resulting from a change in weather patterns and climate change.
Here’s something more to substantiate the previous statement.
The forecast for the first five days of March that the Goa Centre of the Indian Meteorological Department released states in red with a yellow highlight that “maximum temperatures likely to be above normal” from March 1 to March 4.
So March could well follow the pattern of February with the above normal soon coming to be the norm. There are changes, and they are definitely not coming slowly.
Look at some of the occurrences of the past years. It rained every month in the last year - not a phenomenon that Goa is accustomed to. The state – the western coast of India – in recent years has experienced cyclones originating in the Arabian Sea, which again is not normal.
Goa experienced its worst flood in 40 years in July 2021. The changes are quite apparent and happen quite frequently.
Even if climate scientists take time to draw a correlation between weather patterns and climate change, they cannot be set aside until studies show them to be true.
The changes will continue occurring if governments do not pay attention to them and bring in mitigation factors.
Given the manner in which we have been experiencing these changes, especially the cyclones in the Arabian Sea and the rising temperatures, it is time that Goa became invested in the climate change movement, not just through statements and policy documents, but through actions.
What is conjecture today requires to be established by scientific facts so that the links between weather patterns and climate change are proven.
Further studies are needed, and action should follow them, or perhaps, action could begin right away, without waiting for the studies to establish what is quite visible to all.