Brace for more extreme weather events in Himalayas, warn experts

Maximum temperatures in mountain region may rise by 0.5°C to 2.5°C, says state action plan on climate change

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Monday 08 September 2014


Floods in Jammu and Kashmir that claimed scores of lives and caused widespread damage may not be a one off event. Such extreme events in the Himalayan region are bound to increase because of global warming, warn experts.

"The whole Himalayan range is vulnerable because of rising temperatures. Each and every valley—be it Kashmir, Kedarnath or Badrinath—faces the threat of increased precipitation," says Anil K Gupta, director of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir State Action Plan on Climate Change, 2013, minimum temperatures in the Himalayan region are projected to rise by 1°C to 4.5°C. The maximum temperatures may rise by 0.5°C to 2.5°C.

The report also says that the number of rainy days in the Himalayan region in 2030s may increase by 5 - 10 days on an average, with an increase by more than 15 days in the eastern part of the Jammu and Kashmir region. The intensity of rainfall is likely to increase by 1-2 mm/ day.

"What is increasing is sudden precipitation, which happened during recent Kashmir floods, too," says Gupta.

According to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, global warming will lead to changes in the Himalayan region.

"The report says that every year there will be at least one extreme event in the Himalayas. It can range from north-eastern India to Pakistan in the west. Last year, it was the Uttarakhand disaster. Before that we saw floods in Pakistan and cloud bursts in Jammu and Kashmir," says Jatin Singh, CEO, Skymet, a private company providing weather services in India.

He says there is no technology which can predict flood-causing rains well in advance.

"In this case, we all knew Kashmir will face heavy rains. But our weather models cannot forecast the extent," says Singh. "In the given scenario what we can do is to have good network of doppler radars which can give accurate forecast two to three hours in advance," he adds. Kashmir does not have any doppler radar except in Anantnag for the annual Amarnath yatra that pilgrims undertake on foot.

Singh says Kashmir needs three doppler radars. If a proper management is put in place, then people can be warned and evacuated beforehand.

Gupta says another issue that Himalayan states face today is of encroachment on the rivers.

"People are living on banks of the rivers. If a river's capacity is reduced to 10-20 per cent, then the rest of the water in monsoon season will turn into floods," he points out.
The Union government's National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem, 2010 was meant to look into these issues. But it is yet to take off.

Recent major disasters in J&K
  1. Snow blizzard at Waltengu Nad (Kulgam district) February, 2005

    On February 18, 2005 a snow blizzard (severe snow storm) occurred in villages Waltengu Nad, Pachgam and Nigeenpora, affecting 128 families. As many as 175 people (54 men, 48 women and 73 children) died. Also, 183 sheep/goats, 308 cows, 54 buffaloes and 5 horses perished.
  2. Kashmir earthquake, October, 2005

    On October 8, 2005, a devastating earthquake of magnitude 7.6 resulted in 953 deaths and 418 injuries in J&K (more than 80,000 people died in PoK). Nearly 23,000 houses were damaged. Children below 10 years of age comprised 40.3 per cent of the deaths, putting a question mark on safety in schools.
  3. Leh Cloudburst and flash floods, August 2010

    On the intervening night of August 5 - 6, 2010, Leh witnessed a devastative cloudburst followed by flashfloods. Over 250 people died and damages mounted to crores of rupees. Areas in and around Leh, especially Choglamsar, where people had constructed houses along the dry water course, bore the brunt of the flash floods.
  4. Cloudburst at Bagger in district Doda, June 2011

    A cloudburst occurred at Bagger in District Doda on June 8, 2011, where 17 structures got washed away and three people died.

Predicting floods in the himalayan region: using satellite rainfall estimates and models

Observed changes in Himalayan glaciers

A comparative study of deglaciation in two neighbouring basins (Warwan and Bhut) of Western Himalaya

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) risk reduction through community-based approaches

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