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Storms in India: The Science of Severity

Around 127 people died and 300 others injured during the severe dust and thunderstorms that shook north India on May 2; wind speeds of 126 kilometres making it the strongest storm in six years. The world may see more such freak storms due to rising temperatures; reducing pollution and protecting forests are perfect preventive measures.

Around 127 people died and 300 others were injured during the severe dust and thunderstorms that shook north India on May 2. Winds touching a speed of 126 kilometres per hour brought down houses and uprooted trees, thus becoming the strongest storm in the last six years. What led to such a massive weather event? The answer is the high temperature which, combined with other weather systems, triggered a cycle of storms which fed each other.

The region was registering very high temperatures. In fact, Nawabshah, a city in neighbouring Pakistan was searing under 50.2 degree celsius on April 30, the highest temperature ever recorded for the April month. On May 2, the day of the storm, Jaipur recorded a temperature of 43 degree celsius, four degrees above normal.

High temperatures in Rajasthan and a cyclonic circulation over Haryana led to the formation of storm clouds. The western disturbance carrying moisture from Eurasia at the same time joined this system to cause thunderstorms. The easterly winds bringing moisture from the Bay of Bengal also joined the system in eastern India causing thunderstorms in the states of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. A chain of storms was developed that fed each other.

Experts suggest such freak events are bound to increase with time due to rising temperatures across the globe. Researchers studying the massive dust storm that engulfed seven countries in the Middle East in 2015 concludedthat extremely high temperatures led to the storm. Desertification due to deforestation and overgrazing of pastures contributed to it.

As the world faces a greater intensity of dust storms, the diseases related to lungs, including pneumonia and asthma, besides meningitis are bound to rise, said a study done at the University of Miami. Reducing pollution and protecting natural resources like forests can help prevent such extreme weather events in the future.


The blame game behind the death toll of cyclone Ockhi
Nidhi Jamwal writes
The India Meteorological Department claims its job was done by forecasting the cyclone, whereas the affected state government believes its rescue and relief actions are “a formidable achievement”. However, the deadly (mis)management of Ockhi raises some important questions, for which clear action-points are needed to avoid a similar situation in the future.

Is climate change making cyclones worse?
Soumya Sarkar, The Hindu
The fury of Cyclone Ockhi is now spent, leaving behind an alarming trail of death by the score and massive destruction in its wake. Hundreds of fishermen are still reported missing at sea. The damage to livelihoods of millions of farmers and fishers in coastal Tamil Nadu and Kerala is yet to be calculated, but will surely run into millions. The first cyclone of the season, which raged in a wide swathe from Kanyakumari to Mumbai, has reignited discussions on how much of the devastation due to a natural calamity is influenced by human-induced climate change. It is widely recognised that global warming is leaving millions of people vulnerable to more frequent natural disasters. Can we then say that Cyclone Ockhi happened due to climate change? The answer is not easy.

The strange future Hurricane Harvey portends
Peter Brannen, The Atlantic
Peter Brannen writes: Climate change is pushing more water into the atmosphere—with bizarre consequences. We’re headed toward a more arid world but one with unprecedented bursts of floodwaters. And in the tropics, a coming deluge unlike any witnessed by humanity. Also, James Hansen, Naomi Klein and others on climate change and hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Want to talk climate change amidst floods? Show some compassion first.
Cody Permenter, Grist.org
From Grist.org: Yes, we should be having the conversation about climate change and the unprecedented floods, and anyone who tells you otherwise probably has ulterior motives. But before we go there, we need to show the victims that we genuinely care about them. Could our shared value be the lives of those who are hurting?


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