While people in Madurai are bracing themselves for a hot summer, the weather pattern in the last few months has baffled many with the temperatures swaying between the extremes. While it has been unusually cold in the nights and early mornings, people have begun to complain of searing heat during the day.

At the beginning of February, the minimum temperatures were as low as 19 degree Celsius and the maximum temperatures ranged from 32 degree C to 35 degree C. While the minimum temperatures have gradually increased over the month to around 24 degrees, the contrast in temperatures between the chilly early mornings and sunny afternoons is noticeable.

Environmentalists in the city say while the temperature has been gradually increasing over the years, vehicle emissions and the resultant increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has been the contributing factor.

“While the temperature has seen a definite increase over the years, the absence of a coast leading to lack of humidity has drastically reduced moisture formation, resulting in clear skies. This has led to varying weather conditions at night and through the day,” explains A. Nedunchezian, an environmental consultant.

The roads and parks in the city have been sporting a deserted look for the last few weeks early in the morning. Early morning walkers and joggers, who usually begin their day between 5.30 a.m. and 6 a.m., have not been stepping out of their houses given the chilly weather that envelopes the city at night.

“I’ve been going for my morning jog at 7 a.m. from December given the unusually cold mornings,” said L. Kala, a homemaker in K.K. Nagar. “Due to the mist, even the few people who venture out have been wearing shawls and ear muffs as protection,” she adds.

If the chilly mornings have deterred walkers, the pavements in the city have been flooded with watermelons and tender coconuts to beat the scorching sun during the day. “Many of us have also begun to take our carts to residential areas in the morning to sell coconuts since there has been an increase in demand,” said a tender coconut seller who has a shop in Goripalayam.

The weather fluctuations have, however, not been without their share of health issues. “There has been a significant increase in the people who are visiting doctors complaining of throat pain and dry cough. The spike in the number of people with complaints of allergic rhinitis and allergic bronchitis is a result of the varying weather conditions,” says K.R. Kanappan, former chief of ENT Department at Government Rajaji Hospital.

While rising temperatures are generally attributed to global warming, the district has always seen extreme weather due to the absence of a coastline. “This year, it has been unusual and can be attributed to disturbances in the atmosphere. There has been at least a 20 per cent increase in temperatures year after year and we can expect an increase in the coming months,” said S. Rajmohan, Managing Director of Envirocare, a Madurai-based environmental organisation.

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