Kerala floods match climate change predictions, worse to come
Kerala: Once-a-century rains that have pounded Kerala and displaced 1.3 million people are in line with the predictions of climate scientists, who warn that worse is to come if global warming continues unabated.
The monsoon rains upon which farmers in the southwestern state depend for their food and livelihoods dumped two-and-a-half times the normal amount of water across the state last week, according to meteorologists in the country.
It is difficult to attribute any single extreme weather event — such as the Kerala flooding — to climate change, said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pashan, near Mumbai.
At the same time, “our recent research shows a three-fold increase in widespread extreme rains during 1950-2017, leading to large-scale flooding,” he told AFP.
Across India, flooding caused by heavy monsoons rainfall claimed 69,000 lives and left 17 million people without homes over the same period, according to a study he co-authored, published last year in Nature Communications.
In Kerala, all 35 of the state’s major reservoirs were brimming with rain water by August 10, forcing local authorities to open the sluice gates on the Idukki Dam for the first time in 26 years.
“These floods that we are seeing in Kerala right now are basically in line with climate projections,” said Kira Vinke, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
“If we continue with current levels of emissions — which is not unlikely — we will have unmanageable risks,” she told AFP.
The weather patterns behind these destructive downpours are well understood, even if the fingerprint of global warming is still hard to distinguish from what scientists call “natural variability”.
Rapid warming in the Arabian Sea and nearby landmass causes monsoon winds to fluctuate and intensify for short spans of three-to-four days, Koll explained.
During those periods, moisture from the Arabian Sea is dumped inland.