Monday, July 15, 2024

Extreme weather variations have become the new normal for the world

The national capital territory has been left marooned owing to major road closures, massive waterlogging, and Yamuna swelling to dangerous levels which has thrown normal life in disarray. New Delhi may be an unfortunate spectacle in the wake of heavier than usual monsoon rains, but similar is the story around the world.

Vagaries of weather are no rarity. Global weather patterns are seen changing to not entirely unexpectedly but to strange effects. New temperature records are being set across the world as uncharacteristic rains and floods are also happening as an impact of climate change.

June of 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded. And this record is said to have been set by a combination of increase in ocean temperatures, ground temperature, sustained heat, and short-duration spikes.

In the past week, Johannesburg saw snow for the first time since August 2012. Japan asked its people to prepare for what might be the heaviest rain ever seen in the southwest of the island. Several cities have already recorded landslides and floods.

Spain too witnessed heavy rains and hailstorm, and with flash floods in its northern region, people in Zaragoza clung to cars and trees after 20mm rain poured in ten minutes in a heavy storm. Interestingly, this weather event occurred the same weekend the region saw the heatwave ebb.

Europe witnessed 38 degree Celsius heat and public health warnings were issued.

In Germany, doctors warned of the perils of cold-water shock, when people seeking respite from the 38 degree heat, plunged into icy water. In Poland, it was advised that people wear a hat while outdoors and keep hydrated.

With sustained high temperatures in France, both individuals and authorities seem unprepared to deal with it.

A dust plume from northern Africa is reportedly headed towards US’ Florida just when some northern American states are bearing the impact of wildfires in Canada. However, the effect of dust from the Sahara is said to only subtly affect temperature and rainfall, but is expected to make for more spectacular sunsets.

However, there is no such bright spot on the island continent. Rising surface and ocean temperatures are expected to wreak havoc in Australia, given the extreme weather events of late: intense heat, heavy rains, coastal inundation, wild fires and droughts which are expected to only worsen.

Australia has warmed by 1.47 degrees Celsius on average since 1910, and so have the oceans around (by more than one degree since 1900).

China, too, has been experiencing a variety of extreme weather events lately. Southern and eastern China saw prolonged torrential rains. The summer rains, called the ‘dragon boat water’ came down heavily in the Guangxi region which experienced 35 hours of incessant rains earlier in June.

Rains also battered neighbouring Pakistan to the extent of a national crisis. Since late June, at least 91 people have died in weather-related incidents across the Pakistan. Rains are expected to continue in Baluchistan and southern Sindh provinces, where thousands died in floods last summer.

The floods in Pakistan affected 33 million people and claimed 1,739 lives, in addition to causing $30 billion in damage to the country’s economy.

Back home, several cities were put on red alert as incessant monsoon rains caused widespread flooding in north. The national capital recorded the highest rains in decades. So far, 15 people have been killed due to rains.

The monsoon season concludes in September.

(Kavya Dubey may be reached at kavya.d@ians.in)

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