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The Heat is On

This weekend the heat index has hit 44 C in our little corner of Kalasin. The same story has played out almost every day for the last month.

Thailand, and the rest of Southeast Asia, has been experiencing an extended period of extreme temperatures and it’s been a struggle.

It could be that we’ve spent most of the hot season of the last 20 years or so in an air-conditioned office, but it feels like it’s the hottest I can remember. And it’s definitely the longest hot spell I’ve experienced for a long time.

The full toll of this long hot season has yet to be played out, and the most critical factor in this is the lack of rain.

This time last year our newly dug pond had filled nicely; at the same time this year it’s not much more than a puddle.

May 9th 2022, a few weeks after digging our pond and it's over half full.

May 7th, 2023 and the dog can barely get a swim

This intense heat has a very disabling effect. Outside work is pretty much impossible after early morning and the majority of afternoon movement is made just to find a cool spot or a hint of a breeze.

The wind is no solution to the heat. Some gusts can be so hot it begins to feel that you are sitting in a convection oven, with your skin slowly baking and your blood beginning to boil. It’s not pleasant.

For most of the past month early mornings and dusk-time evenings have been cooler, giving us a little respite, but even that has stopped over the past few days. It was 30 C at 5am this morning.

The weather is due to break soon. We need it to break soon.

As much as the hot weather is uncomfortable, the real issue is the lack of rain. Our rice fields currently make good grazing areas for neighbours’ cows and buffalos, but on the 14th May last year they were filled with water and the soil was ready to be turned for the first time.

By that time we’d had a quite a few big storms that steadily dumped a lot of rain. This year the wind seems to be a lot stronger, and the one storm we have had brought with it a quite violent wind. It was a rush to tie down and secure everything we could, and it did some damage to roofs in the village.

It feels like there could be a lot more violent storms this year.

Having no rain and no wet rice fields creates a problem down the line. Late planting means a later harvest, and that increases the risk of something going wrong. Some people around us waited a week to long to harvest last year and heavy rains washed out their crop. We all run the same risk this year, as we’ll all have to wait a little longer to harvest if planting is done later.

Last year the rice fields made the perfect playground for the kids.

This year the cows have pride of place as they graze

Our rice is all for personal use and we don’t usually sell any of what we produce. It’s personal not just for us, of course, but the whole family. The family in the village, family working away in Bangkok or Phuket – everyone gets a share.

But if the heat has the same effect across the country and rice production is affected, that means prices will increase. It’s not really what people need after the last six months of food, electricity and petrol prices going up.

None of this is helped by the impending return of El Nino, which is predicted to return later this year, which the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says ‘would likely fuel higher global temperatures’. Oh great!

Thailand has already broken a number of temperature records in the last month, and now we are told its going to get hotter.

As far as I can see previous El Nino cycles in Thailand mean extended dry spells. In a vicious cycle less water on the ground means higher temperatures and less cooling effects. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

What’s the solution? For us, we don’t know yet.