IMD Chief: “Global Warming Is A Major Cause Of Extreme Weather, And We Must Fight It”

Dr. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Director General of Meteorology, India Meteorological Department, Government of India, talks exclusively to Outlook and focuses on the strategies to reduce the losses as Cyclone Biporjoy is set to make landfall in the Kutch and Saurashtra areas of Gujarat.

Several quotes from the interview

Cyclone Biporjoy is allegedly unique in both its ferocity and makeup. How do you feel?

Much like people, each cyclone is distinct. Therefore, it is inaccurate to assert that it is entirely unique from others. Two weeks before the typhoon made landfall, we anticipated it. We first offered the intensity projection on June 6. We began stating that the storm was headed towards the coasts of Pakistan, Kutch, and Saurashtra as of June 10. Because of how far the nation has advanced in science and technology, it is no longer shocking when a hurricane strikes the shore. We have early detections and other defences in place.

According to a study by Roxy Mathew Koll, the number of cyclones in the Arabian Sea has increased by 52%, while the number of “very severe cyclones” has increased by 150%. Do you concur? Which analysis do you have?

I won’t remark on anyone’s studies at the beginning. I have worked on the effects of climate change on tropical cyclones as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) expert committee on cyclones. By examining cyclones all throughout the world, we discovered three important characteristics. The first one is detection, followed by characteristics and projection.

The cyclone may form or intensify in a variety of maritime basins. There are two ocean basins in India: the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. These ocean basins suffer cyclones twice a year, from the pre-monsoon season of April to June to the post-monsoon season of October to December, unlike other ocean basins. Out of the 80 cyclones that form worldwide each year, five originate in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal combined. Only one of the cyclones that form in our region—7 percent—develops over the Arabian Sea. Therefore, it is challenging to get any information on climate change in the Arabian Sea due to the low frequency of cyclones there and the ocean basin’s limited ability to explain the phenomenon.

But after doing a decadal frequency study, we discovered that throughout the Arabian Sea, the frequency of ‘very strong cyclones’ has been rising since 1990. Whether it can be attributed to climate change is the key issue of concern. We have done much study, but we still don’t feel confident enough to declare that the climate change is the only factor in this. Some studies ascribe it to an increase in wind shear, while others blame an increase in aerosol concentration.

However, it is predicted that cyclones won’t occur more often but would become more intense worldwide.

Do you believe that the genesis of such powerful cyclones is influenced by global warming?

Science has shown that global warming causes significant natural disasters. Every year, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) releases statistics on the increasing sea surface temperature, which has a substantial impact on severe weather. Even if there are no severe weather events, we should strive to reduce global warming. It affects many aspects of life, including social, political, and economic ones.

Fish will dive deep to find refuge if the sea surface temperature rises more. The hardest affected will be fishermen, which will severely harm our economy. We must keep in mind that the nation’s greatest export is fish.

The thermal expansion of water caused by the warming sea surface also contributes to the sea level rise. On the other side, it will also be impacted by the melting of the glaciers. Environmental catastrophes might result from this.

Therefore, sustainable development is what we need. To reach the ‘net-zero’ goal, we must reduce the sources of human emissions and increase the sinks—forests, ponds, aquatic bodies, etc. In addition to macro-level legislation, we may also change our behavioural patterns, such as avoiding purchasing more than one automobile or attempting to travel less by car when it is possible to reach the destination on foot.

We worry that Biporjoy might cause significant property damage and lives loss. Which book are you reading?

I can guarantee that no lives will be lost as a result of the previous mistakes. The days when cyclones caused hundreds of fatalities are long gone. In 1970, Bhola killed three lakh people in Bangladesh; meanwhile, when Cyclone Mocha passed over Bangladesh and Myanmar, not a single life was lost there. 78 people perished in Gujarat in 2021 as the exceedingly dangerous storm Taukte came across the region. However, a hurricane of a similar severity claimed 4,000 lives in 1998.

I’m attempting to imply that the early forecasts and early actions have considerably improved matters, even if not a single life should have been lost. The nation has a catastrophe management strategy. The system has three tiers: NDMA, SDMA, and DDMA. Additionally, we support Pakistan. Every three hours, we give them a regular bulletin. India is seen as a regional leader by the other nations in the area.

What are some potential strategies for reducing losses?

People must first exercise caution and awareness. According to a recent poll, 95% of respondents take cyclone warnings seriously. Even though fewer lives have been lost, the amount of property destroyed has grown tremendously. It is a result of how the people’s socioeconomic position is evolving. In addition, the growth of coastal industry has increased people’s susceptibility to loss. So how can we stop the losses?

Impact-based forecasting, which we have already begun, must be put into practise. A collaborative method called as Dynamic Composite Risk Assessment has been developed over the last two years by IMD, NDMA, and other organisations. Different District Collectors, Tehsildars, and BDOs of the coastal districts have access to this data, and they may act appropriately to avert dangers. about our website, we have all the information about anticipated risks. According to a Power Sector Corporation of India assessment, they may have saved 500 crores of rupees in 2014 because of the early warning of Cyclone Hudhud.

We have requested that all operations in the electricity industry, as well as the railway and aircraft, cease on June 15. The most significant district will be Kutch. Additionally, substantial work has been done on the evacuation. In addition, we would like to ask that everyone stay inside their homes. When a thunderstorm is approaching, stay inside your home and seek out safe shelters.

In addition to early diagnosis and awareness, safeguards might include giving individuals pucca dwellings, which the government currently does under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. To lessen the risks, we can consider burying electrical and telephone lines. So that they might get financial compensation for lost property, people can be insured. Although we have gone a long way, there is still a long way to go.


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