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Extreme weather events and Climate Change

  • IASbaba
  • July 21, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

Topic:

  • GS-3: Environment Conservation
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Extreme weather events and Climate Change

Context: This year, people around the world have been doubly hit by the pandemic and extreme weather events which experts say have been fuelled by climate change.

Some of the extreme weather events across the world that were unusual: 

  1. Unprecedented heat wave in Canada and parts of the USA 
  • It drove temperatures to a record high settling above 40°C for days and reaching 49.6°C — 4 degrees higher than the previous record, causing hundreds of deaths between June 25 to 30.
  • Portland City in NW USA is known for its rainy weather and little sunshine, but the blistering heat caught many unawares this time and demand for air conditioners and fans soared
  1. Floods in Germany that killed over 180 people in the country
  • Areas of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia were hit by 148 liters of rain per square metre in just 48 hours in a part of Germany that usually sees about 80 liters in the entire month.
  • Flooding at Köln-Stammheim station was the most striking as it broke more than a dozen records with 154mm of rain in over 24 hours, obliterating the city’s previous daily rainfall high of 95mm.
  1. Floods in New South Wales, Australia in March.
  • The rainfall in March broke records, causing the worst flooding on the mid-north coast of Australia since 1929.
  • Moreover, the floods came on the heels of other extreme weather events that happened in NSW over the recent years, including droughts, extreme heatwaves and the Black Summer bushfires.

Likewise, Cyclones Tauktae and Yaas that hit India’s west and east coasts, respectively.

Is climate change responsible for extreme weather?

  • Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere averaged 419 parts per million in May this year, highest in 63 years.
  • It is always difficult to determine forthwith the impact of climate change on extreme weather patterns, but scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events are likely to become more frequent or more intense with rising anthropogenic climate change.
  • Climate scientists have also said that in general, the rising average global temperature is making heavy rainfall more likely. Warmer air carries more moisture, meaning that more water will be released eventually.
  • Temperatures at the Earth’s poles are rising at two to three times the temperature at the equator
    • This weakens the jet stream of the mid-latitudes, situated over Europe. 
    • During summer and autumn, the weakening of the jet stream has a causal effect resulting in slower-moving storms. 
    • This can result in more severe and longer-lasting storms with increased intensity.
  • Indian Ocean is heating up at a faster pace in comparison to the Pacific or the Atlantic. And in fact, the western parts of the Indian Ocean are warming up even more.
    • This is of particular concern as several studies have found that a rise in the temperature of the sea surface is related to the changes in the intensity and frequency of cyclones.

Conclusion

  • Increasing temperatures mean more melting ice, higher sea levels, more heatwaves and other extreme weather.
  • Rising temperatures can have far-reaching consequences, including an impact on food security, health, the environment and sustainable development. Therefore, all stakeholders have to come together to address the issue of Climate Change.

Connecting the dots :

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