After days of unabated heatwave that threatened wheat yield, particularly in Gujarat and west Rajasthan, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted that the day temperature will subside after Tuesday as the anti-cyclonic circulation over Gujarat will move towards the Arabian Sea.

However, as a precautionary step, the government has constituted a high-level committee to closely monitor the wheat crop.

“Unlike last year, when the heat wave appeared in March and lasted for a longer period, this time it has taken place in February. Fortunately, it is for a short period and the night temperature has been cool. The high temperature will continue till February 21 and thereafter, this anti-cyclonic circulation will become weak while moving towards the Arabian Sea,” IMD’s Director-General M Mahapatra told businessline.

“As a result, the (day) temperature will fall after February 21 and we can expect a temporary fall in temperature. But as the season progresses, there will be rise in temperature since we are moving towards summer,” he said.

Warning withdrawn

Stressing that such aberration in weather cannot be predicted earlier than a week — though IMD had forecasted the monthly temperature in February to be above normal in the north-west and central regions — Mahapatra said the temperature forecast for next month would be issued on the last day of February.

As the temperature was about 8°c above normal in Saurashtra and 4-6°c above normal in remaining parts of the North-West, IMD had issued a heat wave warning on Sunday which it withdrew on Monday. Since the threshold was 37°c and temperature in the Kutch region persisted with 40°c, it had to issue the alert, officials said.

The heat wave warning has been withdrawn with the temperatures showing a decreasing tendency due to the sea breeze blowing into the land. Maximum temperatures are predicted to drop by 2-3°c over the next 2-3 days, officials said. There was a rise in temperature over north-west and central India (meteorological divisions), especially Saurashtra and Kutch regions got the maximum heating in terms of day temperature.

Anti-cyclonic circulations

“The main reason for this abnormal increase in maximum temperature was due to an anti-cyclonic circulation formed over Gujarat as it led to subsidence of air (downward motion of air from upper to lower troposphere). As air moves downwards, it gets compressed and the temperature rises,” Mahapatra said. In association with the anti-cyclonic circulation, as the wind rotates clockwise, the impact of heating in Gujarat was also felt in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where the day temperature rose, he said.

The main crop which is feared to be affected in case of any heatwave is wheat like last year, he said, adding that to prevent early maturity, irrigation and mulching are recommended so that there is no loss of soil moisture.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry has set up a high-level committee under the Agriculture Commissioner to closely monitor the impact of the rise in temperature on the wheat crop. The government has already estimated wheat production at a record 112.12 million tonnes (mt) this year.

Announcing the committee, Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja said it will issue advisories to farmers on adopting micro-irrigation. He also said there won’t be an impact of a rise in temperature on early-sown varieties. Heat-resistant varieties have been sown in large areas this time, he said.

Ministry’s advisory

The National Crop Forecast Centre (NCFC) of the ministry had earlier alerted that the maximum temperature during the first week of February in major wheat-producing areas barring Madhya Pradesh was higher than the average of the last seven years.

Though the government estimated wheat production at 107.74 mt in 2021-22 against 109.59 mt in 2020-21 due to an unusual heatwave in March-April, traders and experts estimated the production last year at below 100 mt.