Down To Earth

It is time to accept that we are beginning to see the impact of climate change in the form of increased frequency and intensity of
extreme weather events, and this would get worse with rising temperature.
The trend of extreme weather events in the last 118 years suggests that the definition of 'normal' is changing.
'Extreme'is new normal
The first 20 days of August saw 164% more rain than normal; 483 people died,
14 are missing, at least a million affected
Kerala facing the wrath of nature
A multi-day cloudburst in Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides, killing close to 6,000
people and affecting 4,500 villages
Flood fury in Uttarakhand
One of the most disastrous floods in the history of Bihar killed 434
and affected over 2.3 million people
Flood revages Bihar
The super cyclone was the strongest recorded tropical cyclone in the North Indian Ocean,
taking 9,899 lives and causing economic loss worth $4.44 billion

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India is now 250 per cent more likely to experience a deadly heat wave than 50 years ago. In fact, the twin calamity of heat wave and drought is increasing fast. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science have found that frequency of heat waves accompanied by drought has increased in magnitude and in area over the past three decades. They both have a serious bearing on water resources, affecting agriculture.

Data Source: EM-DAT | The international disasters database, 2018, Indian Metrological Department (IMD) and Relief Web

Rising temperature anomaly

The analysis also suggests that the warming trend had started showing more prominently in the last few decades of the 20th century. While the annual temperature anomaly used to be 0.23°C during 1900s, 0.34°C in 1952, and 0.45°C during the 1980s, it suddenly shot up to 1.29°C in the 90s. Since 2000, the annual temperature anomaly has remained consistently high, ranging between 0.72°C and 1°C.

Did you know? 13 out of the 15 warmest years were during the past 15 years (2002-2016). The last decade (2007-2018) was also the warmest on record.

In search of a resilient future

The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is increasing with rising temperature. For example, in the winters of 2017, when the average temperature was 2.95°C higher than the 1901-1930 baseline, the worst drought in a century happened in southern India, affecting 330 million people. While the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events in India is on the rise, an IMD analysis has indicated that our vulnerability is also increasing. Today, India is more vulnerable to extreme rainfall as more people are living in low-lying areas and land development is changing drainage patterns.

"It is an uncomfortable fact that we do not have a semblance of the plan to deal with this changing weather system. We are totally unprepared for what is today understood to be the extreme and variable nature of the monsoon. It is a result of our combined and abject inability to mitigate global emissions, which is leading to such weird weather events. It is also the result of our mismanagement of resources," Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment, recently wrote in one of her columns.


Data source:

✸   EM-DAT | The international disasters database
✸   India Meteorological Department (IMD)
✸   Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)
✸   2017: The year climate change turned the weather really wild, Scroll
✸   Spiralling Temperature: Annual warming trends in India, Lalit Maurya & Rakesh Kamal,
        Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), June 2017

✸   IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change