Cloudbursts are nothing but extremely intense rainfall in a very short span of time concentrated in a very small area resulting in flood like situation in the region.
As the intensity of rainfall increases in large parts of the country, the incidents of cloudbursts, leading to deaths of several people, are also being reported from various parts in the past few days. On July 28, at least seven people were reported killed while scores were injured and missing when an intense cloudburst event hit a remote village in Jammu and Kashmir. The occurrence of cloudbursts has also been reported from parts of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand among others. In a study conducted in the year 2017 on the Himalaya region, which is considered prone to hazards like cloudbursts, the results showed that most incidents take place in the month of July and August when the SW monsoon picks up pace in these states, the Indian Express reported.
What is a cloudburst?
Cloudbursts are nothing but extremely intense rainfall in a very short span of time concentrated in a very small area resulting in flood like situation in the region. As per the eligibility criteria set by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), a precipitation event that exceeds 100 mm of actual rainfall in less than an hour’s time is considered a cloudburst. Along with the amount of rainfall, only those events of precipitation are categorised as cloudbursts that have occured in a very small region of upto 20-30 sq km. The 2017 report found that the conditions that fuel the formation of cloudburst events include very high relative humidity and cloud cover. The report explained that in such situations, the condensation of vapours into clouds begins at an extremely fast pace and results in cloudburst.
Are cloudburst events becoming frequent?
While the hilly terrain and other conditions fuelling cloudbursts have caused such incidents even in the past, the frequency of events such as cloudbursts, flash floods, urban floods are increasing due to climate change and global warming of the planet. Vimal Mishra who is from the Civil Engineering and Earth Sciences at IIT Gandhinagar told the Indian Express that with rise in temperature, the atmosphere becomes capable of holding more and more water resulting in a short but very intense rainfall in a region.
While it may appear that intense rainfalls are a boon for the scorching planet, ailed by Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, the reality is the exact opposite. Intense rainfall events not only lead to disasters like floods and extreme damage but also leads to intense soil erosion, leaching and poses huge problems in recharging of the water table. Sudden outbursts of clouds also harm the standing crop and green vegetation along with resulting in long periods of no rainfall.
Isn’t it possible to predict cloudbursts?
Subimal Ghosh who is from the Department of Civil Engineering at IIT Bombay told the Indian Express that forecasting a cloudburst event is a very challenging task as the hazard mostly occurs in a small area and it becomes very difficult for the weather department officials to keep track of remote and widely dispersed areas of the country at a granular level.