Scary Unseasonal Heavy Rain of October 15-19 in India and Nepal

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After hot sunny days and a clear sky, the morning of October 15 started with dark clouds and heavy rainfall in India and Nepal.

In particular, rains in the Indian state of Kerala caused floods that killed 39 people. About 50 people, including five from the same family, died in Uttarakhand.

Usually, in Uttarakhand, it gets up to 30.5 mm of rain during October, but the week of mid-October recorded 328 mm of rain per day. The Ganges tore apart the coast at Rishikesh, and the famous Nainital region was severely damaged.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees ($ 5,300) to the families of the victims and another 190,000 rupees to those whose homes were destroyed. In Nepal, the death toll rose to 101 after three days of rain caused landslides and floods.

Houses were flooded or crushed by stones. Schools were closed and religious, and the authorities discontinued tourism activities. The government of Nepal is providing $ 1,700 to the families of each flood victim.

India and Nepal, extreme weather with records

Rainfall pattern - Heavy Rain
Post monsoon update by Meteorologist Tara Prakash Shrivastava (source)

The extreme weather has hit India and Nepal, where the heavy rains of October are very unusual because usually, monsoons have left the region. 

However, this year the monsoon in India has been delayed, which means that the rains have been going on longer than expected, triggering extreme weather events. 

The most affected area was Uttarakhand, in the northern part of India. The Nainital district received over 340 mm of rain in 24 hours, the highest figure recorded since a weather station was installed in 1897. 

The well-known lake of Nainital has overflowed, causing flash floods that also hit the outskirts of Jim Corbett National Park. The park is home to tigers and elephants.

Aerial footage of the affected area shows villages partially submerged by floodwaters. In Uttarakhand, the Nainital district was the worst-affected area with the most deaths. 

At least 3,000 people had to be evacuated from a boat on the Sharda River, which overflowed on Monday, October 18.

The flood came amid a religious pilgrimage called Chardham Yatra, where Hindus from all over India travel to Uttarakhand. 

According to Gujarat’s disaster management ministry, up to 100 pilgrims from the western state of Gujarat were visiting Uttarakhand when the floods arrived.

Six of the pilgrims were trapped in the headwaters of Kedarnath, one of the main religious sites. A rescue helicopter flew to evacuate the pilgrims, but bad weather conditions thwarted rescue efforts.

Two observatories in the state’s Kumaun region, where Nainital is located, recorded 340.8 millimeters (13.4 inches) and 403.2 millimeters (15.8 inches) of rainfall. 

It was the highest rainfall over 24 hours ever recorded in the region, according to the Indian Meteorological Department, on Tuesday, October 19.

Television footage and social media videos showed residents wading through knee-deep water near Nainital lake, a tourist site, and the overflowing Ganges River in Rishikesh. 

Climate crisis, more than 7,750 extreme weather events have occurred in northern India since 2015. Experts have attributed the recent devastation in India and Nepal to the climate crisis. 

So far, according to data from the Indian Meteorological Department, Uttarakhand has received 485% more rain than average, while Kerala’s average rainfall has increased by 135%. 

Uttarakhand has experienced a sharp surge in extreme events, reporting more than 7,750 since 2015, while Kerala has experienced severe flooding multiple times in the past three years.

In Nepal, Panchthar, Illam, and Doti areas are most affected. Incessant downpours have blocked the village, 350 km west of Kathmandu. 

The rushing stream of water washes away bridges and houses. Rice plantations were also flooded. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development estimate, 10 billion Nepalese rupees ($8 million) of paddy have been destroyed.

Relation of Indian Ocean Heating Up and Unseasonal rainfall

Indian ocean heating promotes cyclones resulting in intensified rainfalls. Copyright: Down to Earth

The Mid October hit India and Nepal with late monsoon rain costing numerous lives and loss of property. The experts related the course of the event to the cyclone formation in the Bay of Bengal

The Indian subcontinent has been suffering from the effects of costly and deadly tropical cyclones for decades. 

But scientists say that global warming is accelerating the rate of warming of the oceans, causing a rapid increase in the number of cyclones and rapid intensification of weak storms, with severe repercussions for the country.

Cyclones are much more likely to intensify over warmer waters. The Arabian Sea, part of the western Indian Ocean, generally has a sea surface temperature below 28C (82F) and only recorded 93 cyclones between 1891 and 2000. 

By comparison, the warmer Bay of Bengal, located in the eastern Indian Ocean, where temperatures are permanently above 28C, recorded 350 cyclones during the same period.

The entire Indian Ocean is warming at a faster rate than the Atlantic or Pacific. And within the Indian Ocean, the western parts of it are warming much more. We see that sea surface temperature rise is connected well with changes in intensity and frequency of cyclones, especially in the Arabian Sea, and rapid intensification.

Roxy Mathew Koll, Indian Institute of Tropical Meterology

In recent years, the rapid intensification of weak storms to severe cyclones has been noticed in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. 

But current forecasting models do not detect rapid escalation in advance, posing a considerable challenge for disaster management and relief authorities and the public in responding appropriately to risk, according to Koll.

Inland nations such as Nepal can also be affected when intense Indian Ocean cyclones fail to dissipate after making landfall, causing excessive snowfall in the Himalayan highlands.

Arun Shrestha, International Center for Development

A recent example is the untimely rain of October 18 and forward. Anomalous warming of the Indian Ocean has also been linked to locust clouds, floods in Africa, bushfires in Australia, and changes in global precipitation patterns.

Other Reason for late October Heavy Rainfall

Influences - unseasonal rain
Influencers of Indian Ocean Monsoon observing Drivers (source)

Rain in October is not uncommon. October is considered the transitional month when the southwest monsoon retreats and gives way to the northeast monsoon, which mainly affects the southern peninsula of India, mainly on the east side.

However, the mid-October week is witnessed with heavy rainfall, floods, and mudslides which is uncommon. This unusual happening and disaster costing the lives of hundreds of people in both countries are explained. 

1. Formation of two low-pressure system

In the week of mid-October, two low-pressure systems were active simultaneously, one each over the Arabian Sea and the regions around the Bay of Bengal. 

Together, these triggered severe weather events over Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, and West Bengal.

Whenever there is a low-pressure system, heavy to hefty rainfall occurs depending on the strength. If a low-pressure system interacts with western disturbances, it also creates heavier rain.

2. Delayed monsoon retreat

The four-month southwest monsoon season usually retreats completely in early October. During the retreat phase, there are thunderstorms and locally heavy rainfall.

This year, however, the withdrawal did not begin until October 6. So far, the monsoons have entirely withdrawn from the west, north, central and eastern India. 

But the monsoon remains active over the southern peninsula. There was significant rainfall in the beginning and middle of October in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

Usually, the monsoon winds reverse their direction from the southwest to the northeast by mid-October.

Although the easterly winds are beginning to replace the westerly winds, the former is even stronger and more established. The easterly winds indicate the arrival of the northeast monsoon.

Dr. Sivanand Pai, Director of Climate Research and Services, Pune

This year the conditions for the onset of the northeast monsoon are expected to develop around October 25.

3. The effects of climate change accentuated by human action

The effects of climate change are worsened by human action. According to experts in Uttarakhand, the development of the mountain region and the construction of dams and roads in the fragile Himalayas only accentuate the problems. 

These vast projects invade rivers, destabilizing the mountains and making the region more prone to extreme weather events. 

The increase in population in mountain areas, which has led to new houses and clearing forests, is also accused of making landslides frequent during particularly violent rains. 

Last but not least, the glacial melting, which is increasingly dangerous in Uttarakhand.

4. Human Interference in Nature

Apart from global warming, the building of dams has increased the human population, and deforestation is another cause for the heavy rainfall in Indian and Nepal in mid-October. 

Conclusion

The heating up of the Indian ocean is the cause of the unexpected downpour of heavy rainfall in India and Nepal. The cyclonic movement in the Bay of Bengal has been rapidly increasing due to this particular reason. 

Experts have already predicted more heavy rainfalls in the coming days. The trend will continue each year, costing more human and animal lives. 

The concerned authority and government should not limit their actions in mere speech. A right and timely action are required else developing countries like India and Nepal have to pay the heavy price.