Excess rainfall in September result of climate change in Odisha, say experts
While rains in Odisha over the last 3 days have broken most records amid excess rainfall in 11 districts following a low pressure area over Bay of Bengal, experts are concerned over climate change-induced weather-pattern shifts adversely affecting the state’s agriculture.
Senior scientist at the Regional Meteorological Centre in Bhubaneswar, Umashankar Das, said while 12-13 low-pressure formations occur in the Bay of Bengal during monsoon, bringing rains to the coastal state, this year only 7 such formations have happened so far.
“In August, we expected two low-pressure formations in the Bay of Bengal, but there were none. In September, there have been two such formations so far, bringing unprecedented rainfall. This is due to climate change,” said Das.
In the last 3 days, the state received 448% more rain than is normal for this time in September, bringing down the deficiency from 29% to 14%. The huge downpour since September 12 has led to a deluge in several cities including Bhubaneswar, Puri and Cuttack and affected over 2 million people in 20 of the 30 districts, official data shows.
One more low-pressure system is expected to brew over the Bay of Bengal later this week, further bridging the rainfall deficit, but weather scientists say such intense rainfalls over a short period are a matter of worry.
“As rice is highly susceptible to water stress during the reproductive stage, leading to significant reduction in grain, the delayed rain is a matter of worry. As over 47% of the paddy sown in Odisha is on upland, the September rains may not help much. The yield-loss magnitude would however depend on the stage of crop growth and duration of rains. Farmers who would start cultivation of paddy now, their yield would depend upon adequate rainfall during October,” said Das.
Das said in 2020, Odisha had seen 11 low-pressure systems in Bay of Bengal while in 2019 there were 8. In 2018, there were 9 low pressures. But during the last 3 years, the low pressures on sea were evenly spread out in July and August helping the transplantation activities.
Vice-chancellor of Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology, Professor Pawan Agrawal said the rains in September will surely help agriculture activities, but as the state comprises 10 different agro-climatic zones, one needs to analyse the impact of rainfall on each of the zones.
“Had Odisha received adequate rainfall in August then there would have been no problem. In August 2021, Odisha received only 204.9 mm of rain against a normal of 366.4 mm-- a deficit of 44%. It was in 1998 that the state last witnessed less than 205 mm of rain in the same period. Though overall rainfall in the state during the current monsoon may turn out to be normal, huge monthly variation may take its toll on paddy,” he said.
Professor PK Mishra of Central University of Punjab wrote about-- Socio-economic Impacts of Climate Change in Odisha: Issues, Challenges and Policy Options-- in the Journal of Climate Change in 2017, and said that during 1804-2010, both cyclones and floods have occurred for 126 years in the state and outbreak of floods has been reported for nine consecutive years during 2001-2010.
“Between 2011 and 2015, the state witnessed two severe cyclones—the Phailin in October 2013 and the Hud-Hud in October 2014—which caused extensive damages to crops and infrastructure especially in coastal districts. Of late, every season in Orissa has seen some abnormality. The rains are erratic; winters have become warmer; and the summers longer,” wrote Mishra.