Climate change triggers extreme weather in India - GulfToday

Climate change triggers extreme weather in India

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

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Representational image.

Harsh climate events across India indicate the increasing intensity of the extreme weather events across the country.

This year, till now, India has been devastated by floods in Maharashtra and north Bihar, rockslides and cloudburst in Himachal Pradesh, excessive rainfall in Goa and Uttarakhand’s two districts. The Weather Channel reports that experts warn that we can no longer ignore the climate change footprint, as it is very much going to be a part of our daily routine. They say the monsoon rains would increase further with an increase in the global temperatures.

It cites a recent study, ‘Climate change is making the Indian monsoon seasons more chaotic’ by Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). The study says, “For every degree Celsius of warming, monsoon rains will likely increase by about 5 per cent. Global warming is increasing the monsoon rainfall in India even more than previously thought.”

“We have found robust evidence for an exponential dependence: for every degree Celsius of warming, monsoon rainfalls will likely increase by about 5%,” says lead author Anja Katzenberger from the PIK and Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, Germany (LMU). “Hereby we were also able to confirm previous studies but find that global warming is increasing monsoon rainfall in India even more than previously thought. It is dominating monsoon dynamics in the 21st century.”

More rainfall is not necessarily a good thing for the farming sector in India and its neighbouring countries. As co-author Julia Pongratz from the LMU explains: “Crops need water especially in the initial growing period, but too much rainfall during other growing states can harm plants — including rice on which the majority of India’s population is depending for sustenance. This makes the Indian economy and food system highly sensitive to volatile monsoon patterns.”

The study has warned that climate change is dominating the monsoon dynamics of the 21st century. Group leader and co-author Anders Levermann from the PIK and Columbia University, New York/USA comments on the findings of the study published in the journal Earth System Dynamics. “Because what is really on the line is the socio-economic well-being of the Indian subcontinent. A more chaotic monsoon season poses a threat to the agriculture and economy in the region and should be a wakeup call for policy makers to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.”

It states that if global warming continues unchecked, summer monsoon rainfall in India will become stronger and more erratic. This is the central finding of an analysis by a team of researchers that compared more than 30 state-of-the-art climate models from all around the world. The study predicts more extremely wet years in the future —with potentially grave consequences for more than one billion people’s well-being, economy, food systems and agriculture.

The Weather Channel reports that Himachal Pradesh reported a landslide on July 25, killing 9 and leaving several injured. Uttarakhand has been reporting a series of landslides ever since the beginning of the month. Since July 22, with the record-breaking rainfall reported along parts of the Western coast, as many as 164 deaths were reported till July 26 and 25,564 animals died with a total of 1,028 villages affected.

According to experts, the deforestation and rapid urbanization in the Western Ghats have led to the warming of atmosphere which, in turn, increases the capacity of air to hold moisture. This leads to the formation of intense cumulonimbus clouds or vertically developed clouds, bringing some incessant downpour over the region.

In the Himalayas, deforestation and continued construction of hydropower plants, roads, hotels or homes have led to the loosening of soil, resulting in frequent landslides even with the slightest of rains.

Further, with weather being more sensitive in hilly regions as mountains respond to weather more quickly, the development of cumulonimbus clouds in the absence of strong upper air winds leads to these clouds getting trapped and not travelling far. Such clouds then deplete all the water over a certain area, leading to cloud bursts.

While such extreme events continue to occur, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth Assessment Report (AR) cycle has concluded that human influence on the climate system is “clear”. Since AR5, there has also been an increased focus on regional impacts, with scientists improving their models and understanding of what global climate change impacts will look like on a regional scale. Starting in the 1950s, human behaviour has begun to overtake slow natural changes occurring over many millennia.

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