The Kaeng Lawa reservoir in Ban Phai district of Khon Kaen experienced severe drought in 2019, resulting in the reservoir drying up completely. Now, as summer is predicted to end by mid-May, the impact of El Niño, including drought, is forecasted to hit Thailand around mid-June, according to the Meteorological Department. This has prompted Saturday authorities to warn residents in various parts of the country, including Bangkok, to avoid going outdoors due to extreme heat.
Initially, the maximum temperature was expected to peak at 43°C this summer. However, the highest temperatures are now predicted to remain above 40°C for the rest of the season, as explained by Somkhwan Tanchan, director of the department’s Meteorological Observations Division. He further added that this year’s drought severity could be worse than those in 2019 and 2020, potentially resulting in another series of high temperatures in Thailand.
The persistent high heat has sparked concerns about serious health impacts as well. In fact, on Friday, the heat index, which measures what the temperature feels like to the human body when humidity and air temperature are combined, reached a scorching 54°C in Bangkok’s Bang Na district, Chon Buri, and Phuket. Chomphari Chomphurat, director-general of the Meteorological Department, explained that a heat index between 41 and 54°C poses a high risk of heat stroke if exposed to the heat for extended periods. Moreover, an index exceeding 54°C is associated with an extremely high risk of heat stroke.
Bang Na in Bangkok and the provinces of Chon Buri and Phuket experience high humidity and a high heat index due to their proximity to the sea. This intense heat is predicted to continue until Sunday, with extreme weather, including thunderstorms, expected from the following Monday to Thursday. The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation also announced that temperatures in at least 28 provinces would surpass 40°C on Saturday.
For official record-keeping purposes, temperatures are recorded in the shade. The highest temperature ever officially documented in the country was 44.6°C, recorded in Muang district of Mae Hong Son on April 28, 2016 – a mark that was equalled in Mae Sot, Tak this week. The recent extreme heat has broken electricity consumption records, consuming over 39,000 megawatts on April 6, surpassing the previous record of 32,000 megawatts in April last year. Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri attributed the current weather conditions to climate change, further explaining that it has caused abnormal weather patterns and extreme weather phenomena.
These extreme weather conditions have become a significant concern for Thailand’s citizens, as they put more strain on resources and negatively impact various aspects of life. As a result, understanding and adapting to these climate changes is crucial to ensuring the safety, health, and well-being of the population.