Publication Date August 30, 2017

Extreme weather events the new normal? Experts take stock


 From Houston all the way to Mumbai and from Nepal to the desert state of Rajasthan, rains have cut a swathe of destruction with flooded streets and thousands marooned as their cities and villages go under.

With people across the globe dealing with the humanitarian and economic fallout of unusually heavy rains this year, are extreme weather events the new normal? Scientists, meteorologists and climate change experts blame rising global temperatures for the erratic weather patterns, leading to instances like heavy rains and floods.

Heavy rainfall, cloudbursts, thunderstorms and heat waves are indeed becoming the new normal, said former India Meteorological Department (IMD) director general Laxman Singh Rathore.

A worrying trend, added the consultant with the World Bank for South Asia on Climate Change, was that “periodicity and severity” had increased.

“In case of rainfall, the average precipitation has more or less remained the same, the dry spells have increased but the amount of rainfall remains the same. This means there is heavy concentration of rainfall over a particular region while other areas go dry,” explained Jatin Singh, CEO of Skymet, a private weather forecasting agency.

IMD recorded 2016 as the hottest year since 1901. And, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fifth assessment report on climate change, observations since 1950 show changes in some extreme events, particularly daily temperature extremes and heat waves.

The IPCC report also noted that it is likely that the frequency of heavy precipitation will increase in the 21st century over many regions.

The numbers are alarming.

According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 41 million people have been affected due to torrential rains in India, Nepal and Bangladesh this year.