Natural Disasters

India lost 6 people daily to extreme weather events in October

The month was unusually wet, with 47% more rainfall than the long period average

By Kiran Pandey, Rajit Sengupta
Published: Thursday 01 December 2022
Maharashtra was the worst hit by extreme weather events on 13 days __

This October, India experienced extreme weather events on 30 of the 31 days, according to India’s Atlas on Weather Disasters released by Down To Earth-Centre for Science and Environment Data Centre. 

While on all 30 days, some parts of the country recorded heavy rains, floods and landslides, on 17 days, there were lightning and storms. The month also saw an avalanche event on October 4 in Uttarakhand that left at least 16 dead.

Read more: Extreme weather hits economies, hurts Asia most: WMO report

This makes sense as the month was unusually wet, with 47 per cent more rainfall (110.8 mm) than the long period average, as per the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) Climate Summary for the month.

October is usually a lean month in terms of rainfall, as it sees the exit of the monsoon from the subcontinent and the onset of the Northeast monsoon. Rainfall is mainly seen in the southern peninsula and in the East and Northeast regions.

But this October was visibly different.

The Northwest region, which saw the bulk of the extreme weather days, experienced its seventh-wettest October since 1901. The region saw extreme weather events on 21 days of the month. 

Uttar Pradesh, which received 414 per cent surplus rainfall in the month, experienced heavy rains on 19 days. On three days, the heavy rains in the state were accompanied by lightning and storms.

The central region, which received 63.6 per cent surplus rainfall in October, saw extreme weather events on 19 days. Maharashtra was the worst hit by extreme weather events on 13 days.

East and northeast India, which received 33.5 per cent surplus rainfall, saw extreme weather events on 20 days. Assam was the worst hit with extreme weather events on 10 days.

South Peninsula, the only region that saw normal rainfall in October with a 12 per cent above the long period average, experienced heavy rains, floods and landslides on 20 days of the month. Tamil Nadu saw extreme weather events on 11 days, followed by Karnataka (8 days).

Read more: IN PHOTOS: Uttarakhand’s Valley Without Flowers

Six deaths a day 

At least 197 people died due to the extreme weather events in October. This roughly works out to six deaths a day for the month. 

The abnormality of this October can also be seen in the death toll. Uttar Pradesh saw the most deaths (55), followed by Maharashtra (35 days) and Uttarakhand (30 days). 

The worst-hit states are in the Northwest and central regions, which usually do not receive much rainfall in the month. In the Southern Peninsula, Karnataka saw the highest number of deaths (11). In the East and Northeast, Odisha saw the highest number of deaths (11).

The events also damaged 6,145 houses and caused 383 animal deaths. Uttar Pradesh, with 2,462 damaged houses, accounted for 40 per cent of India’s total. 

Meghalaya accounted for more than 80 per cent of the animal deaths, even though the northeastern state saw extreme weather events on eight days in October. 

A year of extremes

The country experienced extreme weather events on 271 of the 304 days from January 1 to October 31, 2022, which claimed 2,952 lives, affected 1.81 million hectares (ha) of crop area, 422,812 houses and killed over 69,390 animals.

Madhya Pradesh had the highest number of days with extreme weather events (144), followed by Assam (141), Maharashtra (125), Uttar Pradesh (123), and Himachal Pradesh (106). In fact, 34 states/Union Territories recorded days with extreme weather events in 2022.

Himachal Pradesh (375 deaths) and five other states recorded more than 200 deaths due to extreme weather events this year. These states cumulatively account for 58 per cent of the deaths.

Curious case of disappearing numbers 

The India’s Atlas on Weather Disasters sources its loss and damage data from the National Disaster Management Division of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, IMD and media reports. The Disaster Management Division releases cumulative figures on human lives lost, cropped area affected, houses damaged and animal deaths.

However, there are many data discrepancies. India recorded 1,843,543 hectares of cropped area affected till September 2022. By the end of October, the total affected cropped area decreased by over 36,000 ha to 1,807,137 ha. 

The problem lies in Uttar Pradesh, which, despite being the worst affected in October, saw 81,793 ha reduction in the area between September and October. Such a drop in cumulative numbers is statistically not possible.

Read more: Wet century ahead: Extreme rainfall here to stay for Western Ghats, North East

A similar discrepancy can also be seen in animal deaths. By the end of September, Maharashtra reported 4,330 animal deaths. A month later, the state’s cumulative number of animal deaths decreased to 4,301.

There are also data gaps in the loss and damage information furnished by the state governments. While 34 states/UTs recorded days with extreme weather events this year, only 15 reported crop area loss. 

This looks unlikely as the list of states with no crop loss data includes Madhya Pradesh, which has seen the maximum number of days with extreme weather events and agrarian states like Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Poor loss and damage accounting has a direct impact on the rehabilitation of people. The issue was also at the heart of the recently concluded 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Sharam El-Sheikh, Egypt, where world leaders agreed to a loss and damage finance facility. 

India has plans to demand climate funds under the facility, for which it will need to get its loss and damage numbers right.

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