“Draining.” “Exhausting.” “Excruciating.”
Passers-by on the streets of Port-of-Spain were vocal as they described the oppressive heat Trinidad and Tobago has faced in the last several days.
Though the country is not officially experiencing a hot spell, or commonly known as a heatwave, hot temperatures have been recorded. Temperatures above 34°C have been recorded in Trinidad and temperatures above 32°C in Tobago intermittently over the last week.
According to the T&T Meteorological Service (TTMS), “September is the peak of the local heat season when hot days (34.0°C or greater) are likely. Therefore it is very common for the month to have hot days. Over the last week, there have been fluctuating days of maximum temperatures reaching or exceeding 34.0°C.”
Current hot conditions are due to Hurricane Sam, well north and east of the country, causing light winds and mostly sunny skies at least through the first half of the day, sending temperatures into the mid-thirties.
Hot temperatures are only one part of the sweltering conditions outside. What it feels like, or the heat index can be significantly higher. The heat index considers the recorded temperature, winds, and humidity to calculate what outside actually feels like. That figure can be as high as 50°C in urbanized areas like Port-of-Spain.
These levels of high temperatures can be hazardous to persons who may be particularly vulnerable to heated conditions, such as older or frail persons, persons with long-term or severe illnesses, young children, and disabled adults who need help responding to the heat.
Those vulnerable to the heat should seek out cool spots, wear appropriate clothing, stay hydrated at all times even if you are not thirsty, spend time in air-conditioned areas, and reduce direct exposure to the sun. Do not leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children, or animals.
Based on data from the Global Historical Climatology Network (pre-1980) and the TTMS (1991-2020), the hottest recorded temperature in Trinidad stands at 37.8 C, recorded on April 20th, 1946, at Wallerfield. Year-to-date, the highest maximum high temperatures have come in at 34.6°C at Piarco, Trinidad, and 32.9°C at Crown Point, Tobago.
For a hot spell (or heatwave) to be declared in the country by the TTMS, maximum temperatures of at least 34°C (above 33.9°C) in Trinidad and at least 32°C in Tobago must last five or more consecutive days across the country. A short-duration hot spell is three or more consecutive hot days.