Cloudbursts linked to climate change, say experts; Centre asks for proof

A rise in temperature in the Himalayas and its relation to cloudburst is a subject of research, but warming of the Indian Ocean is a clear indication of climate change, experts said.
Cloudbursts frequently ravaged large parts of the hills in recent months and led to loss of lives and properties. (File photo)
Cloudbursts frequently ravaged large parts of the hills in recent months and led to loss of lives and properties. (File photo)
Published on Aug 04, 2021 08:32 PM IST
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By Avik Roy, New Delhi, Hindustan Times

Experts have linked frequent cloudbursts in the hilly states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir to climate change. However, the government said there is no scientific study to attribute the contribution of climate change in triggering cloudbursts.

Between January and July this year, the Himalayan region witnessed at least 26 cloudbursts, according to data published in Down to Earth, which also attributed climate change and the fragile ecology of Himachal Pradesh to cloudbursts, frequent landslides and hill cracks in the state.

Meanwhile, minister of state for environment, forests and climate change Ashwini Kumar Choubey told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to A Vijaykumar on Monday that manifestations of extreme events, including cloudbursts, and their incidence are modelled and projected in various scientific assessments, and there is no established study for India estimating the quantified contribution of climate change in triggering such cloudbursts.

"The science of the attribution of such extreme events to climate change is far more complex and currently an evolving subject and being closely studied by Ministry of Earth Sciences, through the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and the India Meteorological Department," Choubey told the Parliament.

While India Meteorological Department (IMD) did not officially report either of the phenomena as 'cloudbursts', regional authorities identified them.

Cloudbursts are sudden and extreme rainfall events over a limited area in a short period, but there is no universal definition of the phenomenon. The IMD defines a cloudburst as any event where 100 millimetres of rainfall lashed a 20-30 square kilometres region in an hour.

Munir Ahmad from the Indian Institute of Technology, Srinagar, said rapidly warming oceans are carrying moisture-rich air to the Himalayan region, which leads to cloudbursts. "It is likely to occur more with an increase in moisture from the Indian Ocean," the expert said, adding while a rise in temperature in the Himalayan region and its relation to cloudburst is still a subject of further research, the rising temperature of the Indian Ocean, however, is a clear indication of climate change.

A recent Down to Earth report said the environment department of the Himachal Pradesh government had warned in its State Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan that floods, landslides, glacial lake bursts, excess rainfall, excess snowfall and unseasonal rains would increase if the effects of climate change were not mitigated.

A climate scientist at the University of Maryland in the United States, Raghu Murtugudde said the recent weather events in Uttarakhand were highly unusual and could have been caused by the warming of the region.

"What is unusual in the current scenario is the very warm temperature anomaly to the west of north India over Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Arabian heat low pumps winds into the northern Arabian Sea and there has been a strong wind along the coast of Oman and going straight over Gujarat into Uttarakhand. I guess that this is raising the chances of cloudbursts there," Murtugudde was quoted as saying by the Down to Earth in May last.

Murtugudde pointed out that March, April and May were warmer than normal over Uttarakhand this year, which would have reduced pressure and driven winds into the hills.

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Friday, October 29, 2021