Defining Extreme Weather Events:
Characteristics and Impacts
Climate change is making its presence felt globally, leading to an increase in extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, landslides, excessive rainfall, heat waves, and sea-level rise. Denying the reality of climate change can only result in catastrophic consequences. Over the last two decades, India has experienced shifts in its climate patterns during summer, monsoon, and winter seasons, with unprecedented heat waves becoming a common occurrence.
Illustrative Examples of Extreme Weather Events in India:
Challenges and Health Risks
In recent years, India has observed a significant rise in the number of three-day concurrent hot days and hot night events from 1951 to 2016. Heatwaves are projected to occur earlier, last longer, and become more frequent. Urban heat island effects will worsen these impacts, leading to heat-related deaths, heat stress, and the spread of vector-borne diseases. Vulnerable communities, particularly workers exposed to outdoor conditions and inadequate housing, face disproportionately higher risks.
Impacted Regions: Heatwaves have been particularly severe in central and northern regions of India, including states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
Causes and Consequences
Unseasonal rainfall, like the excess rain in Delhi and the National Capital Region causing the Yamuna River to breach its 1978 level, has led to catastrophic floods. Eastern parts of India received unusually lower rainfall, affecting regions accustomed to substantial monsoons. Climate change has altered monsoon patterns, with varying dry spells and heavy rainfall events that trigger floods. Coastal regions are vulnerable due to rising sea levels and increased cyclonic activity.
Impacted Regions: Floods have affected various parts of India, including regions along the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers, as well as coastal areas like Kerala and Odisha.
Impact on Agriculture and Water Scarcity
Changes in weather patterns have resulted in long dry spells and altered monsoon patterns, causing droughts. Agriculture and water resources are severely affected, impacting food production and livelihoods. Changing precipitation patterns contribute to water scarcity, intensifying the challenges faced by communities dependent on agriculture.
Impacted Regions: Droughts have been prevalent in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, impacting agricultural productivity and water availability.
4. Cyclones and Tropical Storms:
Coastal Vulnerability and Infrastructure Damage
Rising sea levels and increased cyclonic activity pose significant threats to coastal regions. Cyclones and tropical storms can cause massive infrastructure damage, displacing communities and disrupting daily life. The intensified cyclonic activity is attributed to the rise in global temperatures due to carbon emissions.
Impacted Regions: Coastal areas along the Bay of Bengal, such as West Bengal, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh, are highly vulnerable to cyclones and tropical storms.
Factors and Environmental Implications
Altered precipitation patterns and increased rainfall can trigger landslides, particularly in hilly regions. Landslides lead to loss of life, property damage, and environmental degradation. The risks are exacerbated in areas with inadequate infrastructure and poor planning.
Impacted Regions: Hilly and mountainous regions like the Western Ghats and the Himalayas are susceptible to landslides, affecting states such as Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
Addressing the Growing Threat
Climate change's impact on India is profound and multidimensional. As temperatures increase, erratic rainfall patterns, extreme weather events, and coastal vulnerability pose significant challenges. Immediate action, adaptation strategies, and international cooperation are imperative to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events and ensure a sustainable future for all.