PETALING JAYA: Sik in Kedah, Kuala Krai in Kelantan and Beluran in Sabah are on heatwave alert following unusually high temperatures in recent days.
The Malaysian Meteorological Department said the three towns recorded maximum temperatures of between 35°C and 37°C over three consecutive days.
“Based on temperature monitoring throughout the country until July 26, Sik, Kuala Krai and Beluran are at heatwave alert level Category 1,” MetMalaysia director-general Alui Bahari said in a statement.
He said this in response to questions from The Star on the possibility that the current heatwave hitting Europe, Japan and other parts of the world could also affect Malaysia.
The phenomenon has reportedly killed 50 in Canada and 80 in Japan, led to droughts in Germany and caused temperatures to spike to record levels in Britain, Algeria, Morocco and Oman.
On July 25, the World Health Organisation issued health advice on the heatwave.
In Malaysia, a 2016 technical meeting on tackling El Niño and dry weather agreed on the definition of heatwave. According to the definition, hot weather is divided into four categories.
Category 0 or monitoring level is when the temperature in a location is below 35°C.
Category 1 or alert level is when the maximum temperature reaches 35-37°C for three days straight.
Category 2 or heatwave level sees temperatures of over 37°C for three days straight.
At Category 2, the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry is empowered to officially declare a heatwave so that other relevant authorities can take follow-up action, including the closure of schools in affected areas.
Category 3 of the emergency level is when the temperature soars above 40°C for three days in a row.
When a location hits Category 3, the National Disaster Management Agency will be notified, and the Prime Minister can declare an emergency.
Alui said Malaysia was currently in the midst of the southwest monsoon, which began in the third week of May.
As such, the country’s atmosphere is generally drier due to reduced convection. Convection is when warm air rises creating an upward current in the atmosphere, creating wind, clouds or other weather.
“As such, the country will experience more days without rain in this period compared to others,” said Alui.
He said the presence of a squall line – a narrow band of high winds and storms – moving towards the sea was currently causing occasional early morning heavy thunderstorms and strong winds in the Klang Valley and other parts of the west coast of the peninsula.
“However, since the country is still within the southwest monsoon period, dry conditions are still expected to happen until September,” he said.
Asked whether the current heatwave was due to climate change, Universiti Malaya climate expert Prof Datuk Dr Azizan Abu Samah cautioned against making such a conclusion.
“It is very difficult to link several current weather incidents in different countries, which are affected by various local conditions, and conclude that all of them are the direct result of climate change,” he said.