11 July 2023
In the past two days, several states in north India have experienced a series of extreme weather events that have caused significant disruptions and damage. Unusually heavy rainfall and subsequent flash floods have wreaked havoc on communities, leading to the destruction of households and infrastructure. These events highlight the vulnerability of these regions to the impacts of climate change, which are becoming increasingly severe and frequent.
The combination of extreme weather events in north India and record-breaking global temperatures underscores the interconnectedness of climate change impacts. The urgency to address climate change has never been more critical as we face the consequences of our actions and strive to secure a sustainable future for generations to come.
Dr. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General of Meteorology, India Meteorological Department, Government of India said, “There was an interaction between the western disturbance (a low-pressure weather system, holding lot of moisture, that originates over the Mediterranean Sea and passes across India before crossing over Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) and the southwest monsoon that led to this extremely heavy rainfall situation being witnessed across states in north India. The frequency of such very heavy and extremely heavy rainfall events over the tropical region across the globe shows an increasing trend owing to the changing global climate scenario. India also during the monsoon season, being a tropical country, is showing such a rising trend. Majority of the weather stations across the country in India are showing this sort of a trend, especially with the latest examples of extreme weather in north India as well as across parts of peninsular India as well.”
According to Dr Anjal Prakash, Clinical Associate Professor (Research) and Research Director, Bharti Institute of Public Policy, Indian School of Business and Lead Author of two distinct IPCC Reports (released between 2019 and 2022), “The relentless downpour of rain has transformed picturesque landscapes into a battleground of resilience, as Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi-NCR and parts of Uttarakhand bear witness to the havoc unleashed by incessant rains. As the rain clouds persist, it is a stark reminder of the urgency to address climate change and its far-reaching consequences. As a sobering reminder of the connection between climate change and our shifting weather patterns, the severe rainfall events have increased in frequency and intensity over the past several years. Because the atmosphere holds more moisture owing to the increase in Earth’s temperature brought on by greenhouse gas emissions, there will be more intense downpours and longer rains. Communities, especially people on the margins of our society, are impacted by these severe precipitation events, which causes disastrous floods, landslides, and extensive devastation as we see. It serves as a sharp reminder that immediate action is required to curb climate change’s causes, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and prepare for the new normal of increasingly frequent and extreme downpour events.”
Gurpreet Kaur, Head of Clean Air Punjab, said, “Continuous rains have impacted around 1.35 lakh hectares of farmland in Punjab, with one to two per cent of the affected areas likely to suffer Kharif crop damage. Rainfall has triggered landslides in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as well as flooding in Punjab. The water level of the Ghaggar River in Punjab has increased dangerously as a result of the monsoon rains. Punjab is one of the top 50 states in the world in terms of climate-related risks. This is the first time we can see the tangible threat of climate disaster; it serves as a warning to all of us before it’s too late.”
Srishti Jaswal, Writer from Mandi, Himachal Pradesh said, “As I share this, I am standing next to the mighty Beas River, it’s furious and violent right now. We have never witnessed this before, not even during my fathers’ generation. We have lived all our lives in Himachal and have never seen anything like this before. It is unprecedented. Never before has the state seen infrastructure damage of this scale. Unfortunately, the most affected people by climate change are marginalised people. Dalits who migrated from Punjab and converted to Sikhism have lost everything in Mandi. Water has flooded their homes, and they have nothing left. Destruction is frightening and has a psychological impact.”
Cause of this Extremely Heavy Rainfall Event: A confluence of meteorological elements and broad-scale weather patterns might be implicated as the direct cause of the heavy rainfall event that affected the states of northern India. The existence of a low-pressure system over the area is one important aspect. These systems serve as catalysts for the development of powerful rain-bearing clouds, which can result in protracted periods of severe rainfall. The interplay of monsoonal moisture with different weather systems, such as troughs, fronts, or atmospheric disturbances, is another significant component. The convergence of these systems with the moist winds from the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal fosters the perfect environment for the development of heavy rainfall events.