The average temperature in Malaysia is typically 27°C, but in the past few weeks, temperatures have soared into the 30s.
It has been even hotter up in the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia, with officials saying temperatures there could reach up to 40°C, just 0.1°C short of the highest temperature ever recorded in Malaysia. In 1998, the mercury peaked at 40.1°C in Perlis.
Malaysia’s Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar announced on Friday (Mar 18) that it had set up a special committee of government officials and experts to monitor and issue guidelines on the heat.
He said the Government will declare a “heatwave emergency” if temperatures exceed 40°C for seven days or more at a certain area. The Education Ministry can also order schools to close if temperatures exceed 37°C for more than three days.
This hot spell is not unique to Malaysia. Data from the United States’ National Oceaning and Atmospheric Admnistration suggested last month was the hottest February the world has ever seen.
“What’s bringing on the effects and impact of heat and dryness right now is actually the El Nino phenomenon which is affecting our country as a whole, just like how it’s affecting many other countries near the equator,” explained Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
The hot and dry weather has led to fears of water shortages across the country. In Peninsular Malaysia, at least five dams reported water levels below 50 per cent of their full capacity.
In the northern states of Perlis and Kedah, padi farmers have complained that the heat and lack of rain fall are delaying planting season too. All states, however, have not decided on water rationing yet.