Extreme Weather Events over India in the Last 100 Years

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J. Ind. Geophys. Union ( July 2005 )
Vol.9, No.3, pp.173-187

Extreme Weather Events over India in the last 100 years
U.S.De, R.K.Dube1 and G.S.Prakasa Rao2
Visiting faculty Department of Environmental Science/University of Pune, India and Former Additional Director General of Meteorology (Research), Pune 1 Retd.ADGM, Flat No.69, Mausam Apartments, Delhi – 110 034 2 India Meteorological Department, National Data Centre, Pune – 411 005 ABSTRACT India being mainly an agricultural country the economy and further its growth purely depends on the vagaries of the weather and in particular the extreme weather events. The information on extreme weather events lie scattered in the scientific and technical papers and in the research work of many authors and if put together will help the research community for further analysis. The authors in this paper present a factual and a brief review of the extreme weather events that occurred in India during the last 100 years (1991-2004). The socio-economic impacts of the extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, cyclones, hail storm, thunderstorm, heat and cold waves have been increasing due to large growth of population and its migration towards urban areas which has led to greater vulnerability. In recent years as per WMO review global losses from such extreme weather events is about US $ 50-100 billion annually with loss of life of about 2,50,000. Thus, greater efforts are needed to improve the forecast skill and use these better forecasts in disaster management.

INTRODUCTION The year 1999 witnessed a super cyclone striking the eastern coast of India (Orissa State). It was a major natural disaster affecting the subcontinent in recent years. The Bangladesh Cyclone of 1971, droughts of 1972 and 1987, the heat wave in 1995 and 1998 and cold wave in 2003 killing several hundred people are still fresh in public memory. The drought and failed monsoon of 2002, in particular, an unusually dry July, is matter of concern for scientists and planners. However, many may not remember that the worst drought in India during the last century occurred in 1918. The data on climate anomalies, extreme and disastrous weather events in respect of the subcontinent lie scattered in various published literature of the India Meteorological Department and in the scientific and technical papers documenting the research work of many authors. We have attempted to bring them systematically into the ambit of this review paper. The aim of the paper is to review the major natural disasters and extreme weather events which occurred over the country in the last few decades (1901-2004) and discuss briefly their causes and socio-economic impacts.

Climate of India and Climate Variability The India Meteorological Department was established as a National agency in 1875 amalgamating various provincial meteorological services which existed in the 19th century, [Kelkar (2000)]. However, instrumental data and records for a few stations in India existed since 18th century. Some of the oldest observatories include Madras now known as Chennai (September 1793), Bombay (1823) and Calcutta (December 1829). The first seismological observatory was set up in Alipore (Calcutta) in 1898. The new names for Bombay and Calcutta are Mumbai and Kolkata. Basically, the climate of India is dominated by the summer monsoon (June to September). The entire year is, however, divided into four season : (i) Winter (January and February) (ii) Pre-monsoon or Hot Weather season (March – May) (iii) Southwest or Summer Monsoon season (June - September) (iv) Post monsoon season (October – December). Year to year deviations in the weather and occurrence of climatic anomalies / extremes in respect of these four seasons are :(i) Cold wave, Fog, Snow storms and Avalanches (ii) Hailstorm, Thunderstorm and Dust storms (iii) Heat wave (iv) Tropical cyclones and Tidal waves

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U.S.De, R.K.Dube and G.S.Prakasa Rao

(v) Floods, Heavy rain and...
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