On July 28, 2021, at least seven people were killed, 17 injured and over 35 missing after a cloudburst hit a remote village of Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, cloudbursts have been reported from several places in J&K, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh
What is a cloudburst?
It is a short-duration, intense rainfall events over a small area.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), it is a weather phenomenon with unexpected precipitation exceeding 100mm/h over a geographical region of approximately 20-30 square km. Eg. 2010 Ladakh Floods, 2013 Uttarakhand Floods, etd.
A 2017 study of cloudbursts in the Indian Himalayas noted that most of the events occurred in the months of July and August.
A study published last year studied the meteorological factors behind the cloudbursts over the Kedarnath region to analyse atmospheric pressure, atmospheric temperature, rainfall, total cloud cover, cloud water content, cloud fraction cloud particle radius, cloud mixing ratio, wind speed, wind direction, and relative humidity during the cloudburst, before as well as after the cloudburst.
Causes of Cloudburst
The study on cloudburst published last year showed that during the cloudburst, the relative humidity and cloud cover was at maximum level with low temperature and slow winds. This is expected to be responsible for high amount of condensation of clouds at a very rapid rate and results in a cloudburst.
Future of Cloudbursts
It is predicted by several studies that the climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of cloudbursts in many cities across the globe.
The World Meteorological Organization noted that there is about a 40% chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 degree celsius above the pre-industrial level in at least one of the next five years.
With rise in temperature the atmosphere can hold more and more moisture and this moisture comes down as a short very intense rainfall for a short duration probably half on an hour or one hour resulting in cloudbursts and flashfloods. These events are likely to become more intense and frequent.
The Government of India asserts that there is no scientific study to attribute the contribution of climate change in triggering cloudbursts.
IMD director Sonam Lotus says that there is no record of cloudbursts, but instances of thunderstorms and severe weather conditions have certainly increased.