India saw over 50 storms in April and May, and the Centre for Science and Environment’s Sunita Narain, writing in Business Standard, says that might be the new normal. As Narain points out, between 1980 and 2003, India saw nine convective storms that killed 640 people, and between 2003 and 2017, 22 such storms blew over India, killing 700. This year, the 50 storms in April-May killed 500. Mismanagement of land, forest and water resources is causing increased desertification, and anthropogenic climate change is causing frequent and hitherto unseasonal storms. There is a marked increase in Western Disturbances (WDs)—winds originating in the Mediterranean that blow over West Asia and reach the Himalayas where, blocked by the mountains, they cause snow/rainfall.
These have increased from the two-three in winters to 10 and more, coming in even in April. This, Narain says, can safely be attributed to a warming Arctic that causes jet streams to weaken, affecting when and in what frequency, WDs knock at India’s north-western frontiers. The WDs collide with the cyclonic, moisture-heavy systems from a warming Bay of Bengal—the recipe for the perfect storm. The fact that this summer has been warmer than before means vast stretches in these areas will be drier, and hence, dustier than before. Add the storms, and some of these areas become dust-bowls. Narain highlights in her column that India must get geared to face this new normal as the effect of anthropogenic climate change starts to manifest.
Five hundred Indians dying because of storms is unacceptable—so may would not have died had the Doppler radar in Jaipur been functional and warned populations in the paths of the storms. Beyond disaster containment actions, India must commit more on climate change mitigation, over its already ambitious NDCs. But, most of all, given how climate change action has to be global and not just at the country-level, India must get other nations, especially the US, to recognise this.