Climate Change

How climate change has ravaged India's Himalayan states

Hindu Kush Himalayan region, which has a major influence on the Indian summer monsoon, has experienced extreme warm weather events in the last 60 years

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Monday 19 August 2019
Severe flood situation at Brahmaputra’s Neamatighat. Photo: Oxfam International/Flickr
Severe flood situation at Brahmaputra’s Neamatighat. Photo: Oxfam International/Flickr Severe flood situation at Brahmaputra’s Neamatighat. Photo: Oxfam International/Flickr

Human-induced climate change has led to extreme weather events in the nearly all states in India, particularly among those in the Himalayan range, known to be an ecologically important but fragile region. 

The Hindu Kush Himalayan region, (HKH) part of the Himalayan range, is spread over 3,500 square kilometres across eight countries including India, Nepal and China. India has 10 states, namely Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and hill regions of Assam and West Bengal, under the region.

The region is known as a heat source in summers and heat sink in winter; and has a major influence on the Indian summer monsoon.

But, the mountains in the HKH region have been warming at a much faster rate than the global average, according to a climate assessment, released earlier in February by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a Kathmandu-based intergovernmental body.

The region has experienced extreme warm weather events in the last 60 years. With warm nights increasing by 1.7 per decade, the region gets 1.2 warm days every decade. Every decade HKH loses one cold night and half a cold day, the report said. 

These findings have echoed in the excessive rainfalls that led to deluges, flash floods and even cloud bursts in the Himalayan states, which initially witnessed extreme heatwaves and high-deficit in rainfall.

Until the first week of July, many districts in Arunachal Pradesh were under severe deficit, after which the extreme rainfall events began and induced the floods, mainly in Tawang and West Kameng districts of the state.

In Assam, four districts — Dhuburi, Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Barpeta — suffered many more extreme rainfall events than others. The events were spread in between the last days of June and the last days of July when the floods in the state were most severe. Flood conditions had still not relented till August 6 when eight districts were under water.

Meghalaya was hit by floods in mid-July, especially in the Khasi and Garo hills where there was extreme rainfall.

Uttarakhand received most of its extreme rainfall events in a scattered way over the months of July and August. These induced localised flash floods and landslides in districts such as Nainital, Bageshwar and Tehri Garhwal. The state has also witnessed cloudbursts.

At least 22 people, including two Nepalese, were killed and nine others injured in rain-related incidents in Himachal Pradesh, claimed media reports. Heavy rainfall hit Kathua and Samba districts of Jammu and Kashmir. It led to flash floods, raised water level in major rivers, including the Tawi, and left some low-lying areas submerged, the reports added.

‘Heavy’ to ‘very heavy’ rainfall is expected to lash Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand during August 19-20, 2019, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

Degrading ecosystems, outmigration as well as increase in air pollution could be behind the rampant climate change observed in the HKH region, the ICIMOD report said. 

Even the most ambitious goal of restricting global greenhouse gas emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius — as recommended in the Paris Agreement — by the end of the century would lead to 2.1 degrees rise in temperatures, it added.

While human-induced climate change has spiked the frequency and intensity of daily temperature extremes since the mid-20th century, it has been much evident in 2019. Countries across the globe have seen record-breaking extreme temperatures, starting from January, and have experienced climate related events such as coldwave, heatwave, floods, drought and cyclones, among others.

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