According to weather website El Dorado, out of the 15 places that have received most rainfall across the globe in the last 24 hours, eight are in India. Only two months back, the same weather listing source had counted four places in India among the world’s hottest 15 places.
From heat waves to flash floods, India has witnessed extreme weather conditions this year. While parts of northern and southern India were struggling with drought-like conditions in the summer, the Northeast and western coastal areas have been battered with torrential downpour lately. Successive disasters have compelled us to turn our attention to the million-dollar question: Has climate crisis hit home?
According to weather website El Dorado, out of the 15 places that have received most rainfall across the globe in the last 24 hours, eight are in India. Naliya, a town in Gujarat, received a record 10.3 inch rainfall, followed by Okha (Gujarat, 6.54 inch), Rajkot (Gujarat, 5.83 inch), Mahabaleshwar (Maharashtra, 5.59 inch), Cochin (Kerala, 4.97 inch), Alappuzha (Kerala, 4.45 inch) and Kozhikode (Kerala, 4.57 inch).
Only two months back, the same weather listing source had counted four places in India among the world’s hottest 15 places.
Scientists agree that extreme weather conditions may most likely spike in the coming days. All these events couldn’t be put in a single bracket. However, one has to notice that there were some particularly extreme events that took place in a single day in many parts of the country, says Raj Bhagat Palanichamy, an earth observation expert with World Resources Institute, India.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to predict such events. But the effects of such events would be higher in future due to loss of natural infrastructure as well as the ever-expanding human settlements. Even if the same number of events takes place in the country next year, the social and financial costs would be higher, Palanichamy added.
Multi-decade rain deficit to rising temperatures have shaken up the usual weather patterns. The ministry of earth sciences, India, has also confirmed that the year 2018 was the sixth warmest year on record since nation-wide records commenced in 1901. However, it was lower than the warmest year of 2016 (+0.720C).
Last year, the mean temperature during monsoon and post-monsoon seasons were also above normal.
Chennai was the test case of drought when north and central India were facing a massive heat wave in June. After the public presser, the government announced a special 50-wagon train to import water from outlying districts. Chennai would get water from such arrangement till October.
But while Chennai in India’s eastern coast is waiting for proper monsoon, large swathes of land along the western coast have been hit by floods due to heavy rain. More than 64,000 people have been evacuated to 738 relief camps in Kerala, and property worth over Rs 1,000 crore damaged. This is the story of two neighbouring states.
The river Periyar in Kerala, one of the longest in India with immense discharge potential, is in a spate, along with other major rivers such as Bharathapuzha, Pamba and Wayanad. In Karnataka, the flood situation downstream to Kabini river, a tributary of Cauvery, and other rivers remain grim.
Palanichamy and other experts said that floods in northern and southern Karnataka and the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu have been caused by extreme rainfall which these places haven’t witnessed in quite some time. Before the commencement of rainfall in this region, it was a potential drought-affected area. Over a single week, the dams are now full in Cauvery basin.
The timeline of extreme natural calamities started from May when a powerful cyclone roared through Odisha with wind speeds of up to 130 mph. It was the most dangerous storm in recent years.
India has about 4 per cent of the world’s freshwater resources and is counted among the top 10 water-rich countries. But it also scored as a water-stressed region.
According to the Working Group II report of the Fourth Assessment of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, India has been designated as a water-stressed region’ with utilisable freshwater standing at 1,122 cubic metres (cu m) per year and per capita compared to international standards of 1,700 cu m.
A recent study shows that Himalayan glaciers, the main water source in India, are melting rapidly and likely to lead to severe droughts conditions in the northern states.
Scientists are divided on whether global warming is responsible for the change in Indian monsoon patterns. But climate crisis is a reality and being faced in the form of multi-decade rain deficit and flash floods.
All eyes are now on the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) known as COP26 where more than 30,000 representatives across the globe would meet in Glasgow, UK, at the end of 2020 to decide on steps to curtail carbon emission which is one of the major factors responsible for climate crisis.