Is the weather going awry or we?

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Rajkot (Gujarat), Nov.11 (ANI): In India, the Weather Gods seem to have always been in an inscrutable mood. As while in one region, they demonstrate their sagacious powers, in other regions they appear at their destructive best at times.

On a more serious note, the overall play of drought and floods, of cloudbursts and arid conditions across the subcontinent has left not only the ordinary citizens, but meteorological experts, and probably, even climate change aficionados perplexed.

In India, as in any country, weather conditions play a crucial role in the lives of people. Depending on whether these patterns are predictable or reflect an aberration in nature, the impact on communities is almost certain. The last few months have amply demonstrated that. But shouldn't our response be less reactive, even knee-jerk and more pro-active and strategic?

While forming policy on developmental needs of the people, planners are said to take into account sociological and economic factors. How about planning for weather contingencies, particularly on the scale we have witnessed recently; the impact it can have on the very plans that the Government have laid for progress?

The need of the hour is to understand the changing patterns of nature, analyzing the various elements of weather build-up on the subcontinent and pre-empt the actual scenario before it descends. What instead we have today are weather updates aired on television channels and a flurry of measures including relief, rehabilitation when nature's fury strikes. Can we now begin to put together the puzzle of weather patterns so that it becomes part of policy planning and ultimately, communities are better prepared to side-step danger which otherwise seems imminent?

Over the last few months of summer, temperatures across the North West subcontinent were indeed very high judging from the complaints and from the scorching of leaves of trees. This immense heat must have drawn in a larger quantity of oceanic air than normal which along with the onset of the South West Monsoon would have led to much higher moisture content in the air.

This huge cyclonic depression would have led to the Bay of Bengal branch of the South West Monsoon penetrating far to the North West causing the devastating deluges in the Indus basin and pushing the moist air up into the arid valleys of the Afghan border. This huge inflow of oceanic air which penetrated the Himalayan valley systems can very well be connected to the inordinately wet summer that we experienced with unseasonable snowfall on the higher passes; across in Lahoul of Himachal Pradesh. It might be worth examining the ambient humidity across Pakistan, the Punjab and Rajasthan during the period before the Monsoon's advent.

Yes, to an extent, this upset in expected weather patterns could be blamed on global phenomena. What we ignore, however, is the information generated at a regional level.

The Metrological Department's rainfall and temperature figures going back into early 1900s can be a logical starting point. I would not be surprised if similar situations have occurred before.

I recollect the very heavy rainfall during the 1947 monsoon, when following Partition, large-scale migrations were taking place across Punjab. I must emphasize that this is a recurring problem expected to occur from time to time. t is the extremes that need to be planned for, so that the huge human miseries do not occur. Seen from another perspective and handled creatively, adversity could be turned into opportunity. Exceptionally, heavy rain falls are a blessing, especially in the arid regions.

Building dams to store the above average precipitations would help to tide over the very lean years. A double benefit would be the huge savings otherwise spent on massive relief for the affected region.

I am sure Indian weathermen are studying the reasons for such periodic fluctuations in weather conditions. Yet what I fear is a broad-brush approach that will overlook smaller details and nuances which can throw light on the subject.

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) going in for sophisticated space imagery, the humble ground stations should not get marginalized.

These units across the length and breadth of India could actually provide a very clearer image of what is happening since weather is influenced by the heating and cooling of the land surface.

Surface topography and the resultant winds have an extremely significant role in determining how much precipitation will occur, when and where. Information from local ground stations could provide the much-needed prism to view the phenomenon occurring in the atmosphere. The timely and correct use of this would prove invaluable to planners, to communities and to agencies involved in post-disaster scenarios.

The Himalayas are the supreme example of what a mountain range can do to influence the weather. At the same time, it is equally the much lower Western Ghats which demonstrate the powerful impact of topography on distribution of rainfall. Between these two widely divergent topographical zones lie a number of areas reflecting their own unique characteristics and contributing to variations in precipitation and thereby affecting the local communities.

The study can prove fascinating. In the Himalayas, the slightly lower Kangchendzonga creates humid conditions in the Tista Valley in Sikkim while the supreme Everest not far away does not have any such influence in its environs.

This difference is because the Kangchendzonga's north to south ridge is at right angles to the moisture laden eddies while the Everest ridge is parallel to this movement of the winds. So apart from the characteristic plume of snow being blown off the Everest peak during this movement, there is no impact on the surrounding region.

In another part of the subcontinent, at Hingol Gadh in Saurashtra, Gujarat, while there has been heavy downpour around the region, the hill conformation in the region causes an arid situation.

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that weather is closely linked with surface heating and cooling and obstructions in the air-flows by topographic features. Within the macro picture as seen from space, are the more exciting, often intriguing ground level variations in the weather pattern that directly influence communities.

According to Charkha Features, this is what our policy planners need to take note of and base their actions on. By Lavkumar Khacchar(ANI)

(The writer is a noted Environmentalist)

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