Climate Change: The Rising Threat of Extreme Floods in India
When discussing climate change, most people immediately think of global warming and the subsequent rise in surface temperatures. However, changes in rainfall patterns and precipitation are equally critical factors that will shape the impact of climate change. Unpredictable rainfall poses significant challenges, with severe floods becoming more frequent and devastating. India, with its unique monsoon season and diverse geography, has been particularly vulnerable to such extreme weather events. In this blog post, we will delve into the implications of climate change on rainfall patterns and explore the increasing risks of floods in India.
Impact of Heavy Rainfall and Flooding
India has experienced several devastating floods in recent years, demonstrating the profound impact of heavy rainfall on the country. One such example is the severe floods that struck Kerala in August 2018. The state witnessed unusually high rainfall during the monsoon season, resulting in significant loss of life, damage to crops, and displacement of thousands of people. The floods also had a detrimental effect on the wildlife of the region, with tiger deaths reported in Periyar National Park.
Understanding the Causes of Floods
Heavy rainfall is the most common cause of river flooding in India. When rivers and lakes receive excessive amounts of water, they overflow into surrounding areas, leading to devastating floods. The severity of a flood depends not only on the intensity and duration of rainfall but also on factors such as the landforms, surface features, vegetation, and soil characteristics of the affected areas. Additionally, cyclones and landslides can further contribute to flooding events, exacerbating the damage caused.
Climate Change Amplifies the Risk
Climate change intensifies the variability and severity of weather patterns, leading to record-breaking rainfall and potentially more severe tropical cyclones. Research published in scientific journals such as Plos One and Nature Communication demonstrates a significant increase in extreme rains and flooding in India over the past few decades. For instance, a study by Prof. Vimal Mishra from IIT Gandhinagar attributed the Kerala floods to several factors, including above-normal rainfall, extreme rainfall events, high reservoir storage, and unprecedented rainfall in catchment areas.
The Link Between Climate Change and Flooding
Various studies have explored the relationship between climate change and flooding in India. A 2014 study conducted by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology highlighted the increasing intensity of monsoon rains, with global warming being a contributing factor. Another study by IIT Bombay in 2017 identified deforestation as a major driver of this phenomenon. A warmer atmosphere, caused by climate change, has the capacity to hold more moisture, potentially leading to a 1-2% increase in total precipitation for every degree of warming.
The Alarming Reality and the Way Forward
India has a long history of floods, accounting for nearly half of the total disasters in the country over the past century. The recurrence and intensity of floods have escalated, causing significant loss of life and economic damage. While the government has taken measures to mitigate the impact of floods, there is still much work to be done. Leveraging science, technology, telecommunications, and media can play a vital role in early warning systems and disaster preparedness.
Climate change poses a growing threat to India, with increased rainfall and extreme floods becoming more frequent and severe. The unique monsoon season, coupled with the diverse geography of a country, makes it particularly susceptible to these events. It is imperative that we recognize the link between climate change and flooding, take proactive measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and implement effective disaster management strategies. Only through collective efforts can we mitigate the devastating consequences of floods and protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in India.