It often gets really hot in May in Phalodi, a city in the arid northeastern Indian state of Pajasthan. But last Thursday, it got really, really hot.
The thermometer reading that day peaked at 51 degrees Celsius, the equivalent of 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the Times of India reported. For perspective, that's the hottest temperature ever recorded in India, beating the previous mark set back in 1956. It also was the third-highest temperature ever documented on Earth, exceeded only by the 134 degrees F in California's Death Valley on July 10, 1913, and the 131 degrees F in Kebili, Tunisia on July 7, 1931.
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It got so hot in the city of 45,000 inhabitants that those brave–or perhaps unwise–people who dared to venture outdoors despite an official curfew found it difficult to remain there long. One man, a government employee named Murari Lal Thanvi, told BBC News that the heat was so punishing that his mobile phone, which he was trying to use to take pictures, stopped functioning because of overheating.
"I was able to switch my mobile phone on after putting a wet cloth on it for about 20-25 minutes," he explained.
The unprecedented high was part of a heat wave that's been punishing northern India, according to the Indian Meteorological Department, a division of the national governments's Ministry of Earth Sciences. The department issued a warning of brutally more hot temperatures over the next five days. While there's typically a stretch of several weeks in the spring when temperatures exceed 100 degrees in the run-up to the monsoon season, this year is much more brutal.
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It got so hot it even hindered the city's extensive solar power-generating system. The latter, which has a capacity of 700 megawatts, reportedly generated 3 to 5 percent less electricity than usual. That's because solar power is produced by the contrast between low-energy electrons in solar panels and the sun's higher energy. When panels get too hot, it lessens the contrast, according to an FAQ by scientists at the University of California-Santa Barbara.
The New York Times reported that the heat wave has exacerbated the punishing effects of a drought, caused by inadequate rainfall from last year's monsoon season. That's led to lower crop yields and thirsty farm animals.