SINGAPORE has just sweated through the year’s hottest period so far – the four-day stretch from Friday last week to Monday. Sunday was the most sweltering day in six years, with the mercury hitting 35.3 deg C. The last two times it was this hot in recent history was on May 1, 2005, when it was 35.4 deg C, and during a month-long heatwave in 1983, when it hit 35.8 deg C. But a 36 deg C day in March 1998 is still the all-time high.
The Meteorological Services Division of the National Environment Agency (NEA) explained that such hot days, with occasional heavy thunderstorms, are typical of the inter-monsoon period in April and May, and that temperatures exceeding 34 deg C will be usual on some days. The average daily maximum temperature for this month will even out to 31.6 deg C, and the temperature and humidity for the coming weeks are not expected to differ by much.
The NEA said that, based on climate statistics, May and June are the warmest months of the year, with average daily temperatures of 27.7 deg C; July comes next with 27.4 deg C and August follows with 27.3 deg C. Up north, the Malaysian weather authorities are bracing themselves for a heatwave lasting until September; at Subang in Selangor, temperatures were at 36.2 deg C on Friday.
Dr Chew Huck Chin, an associate consultant of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), said such weather could bring on heat-related illnesses like dehydration and heat stroke, especially among children, infants and the elderly. SGH and the National University Hospital were unable to give the number of cases of illnesses or death specifically attributable to the heat. For the majority, battling the heat is a matter of turning to cold drinks and air-conditioning.
Mr Ken Hamid, 29, who runs a kiosk in front of Lucky Plaza, said sales of beverages, especially bottles of mineral water, have risen by 5 per cent to 10 per cent. The larger 1.5-litre bottles are selling better as well. At convenience store chain 7-Eleven, a spokesman said sales of water and carbonated drinks were 7 per cent higher, and sales of ice were up 10 per cent. Ice cream sales are stable, she added, but it is monitoring demand and keeping its stores well-stocked. Research associate Tina Hashim, 27, who was spotted enjoying a sundae in Orchard Road, said: “I try to wear light clothing when I’m out. At home, I don’t have air-conditioning, so I have the fan on full blast when I sleep.”
Coolserve Air-Condition Engineering and electrical appliance stores Harvey Norman and Gain City have sold more air-conditioners. All declined to cite figures, but Coolserve indicated that its installation schedule is packed until the middle of next month. The Singapore Sports Council said swimming pool attendance was 19 per cent higher in the four days from Friday last week to Monday, compared with the last two weeks of April. On average, 25,530 people visited the 24 public swimming complexes here on each of the days, up from 21,387 visitors a day in the last two weeks of April.
But as much as most people are seeking out strategies to cool down, some do not mind the heat. Al-fresco dining is still popular at restaurants like Peperoni Pizzeria in Greenwood Avenue, where about half of the tables are in the open. Its manager Raymond Ho said 70 per cent of its customers are regulars and half are foreigners “who do not mind sitting in the sun”, although some customers had asked to move indoors if tables there became available.
At the IndoChine restaurants on the banks of the Singapore River and at Clarke Quay, business is unaffected; in fact, it does better in the hot season than in the wet one, said marketing manager Eugene Lim. Meanwhile, the Singapore Zoo said its animals do not seem too bothered by the heat so far. Mr Biswajit Guha, the zoo’s director of zoology, said if it does get too hot, the animals can take a dip in the pools of exhibits or duck into shaded areas provided.