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Cloudburst in Leh may be due to climate change

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - 21:30

New Delhi: Based on detailed analysis of
weather data of last five years in Leh, Ladakh, scientists
have attributed the recent cloudburst in the region to
prolonged winters which may be due to climate change.

"After going through the sequence of events of the
weather that led to the cloudburst on August 6, it has been
reinforced that the catastrophe was due to prolonged winters
being witnessed in the region," sources in Leh-based Defence
Institute For High Altitude Research (DIHAR) told PTI.

The analysis by the research institute under the Defence
Ministry was done to look into the reasons that triggered the
cloudburst in Ladakh which is usually considered unnatural
because it is a rain shadow area.

On the condition of anonymity, he said at a recent
meeting on "Evaluation of climate change in Ladakh sector and
causes of Cloud Burst in Leh," the scientists led by DIHAR
director Sashi Bala had analysed the weather data of the last
five years in terms of monthly temperature, rainfall, humidity
and snowfall.

The study indicated that increased temperature and hot
summers in the plains lead to increased evaporation and
subsequent cloud formation in the hills. "This in turn, lead
to increased duration of snowfall in Ladakh when compared to
previous years.

"The winters in Ladakh were found to be prolonged," the
experts concluded though they felt the phenomenon could not be
directly associated with climate change given the short range
of data.
The region was witnessing unusual phenomenon of bright
sunshine in the June and July months causing melting of snow
and high relative humidity (72%) as compared to previous years
(50%), the scientist said.

Tracing the change in weather on the basis of the data
available, he pointed out "since snow absorbed the latent heat
also, the monthly maximum and minimum temperature remained low
and did not shoot up as compared to previous years (2006).

"The low temperature and high relative humidity lead to
formation of dense low clouds in the valley. Since the vapour
content in the clouds were high and on trying to cross the
glaciers, the vapours further condensed.

"The clouds could not retain the water droplets that
lead to the cloudburst. Since the rainfall was absent on 3rd,
4th and 5th August and was negligible on 7th, 8th and 9th
August the theory of occurrence of a cloudburst in Leh due to
prolonged winters may be reinforced," the meeting said on the
sequence of event.

The cloudburst, which led to flash floods and mudslides,
claimed about 180 lives and injured about 400 people, besides
causing widespread damage to public and private property.
The Defence establishment has also initiated research
towards preventing soil erosion in case of heavy rains in the
area in future in view of climate change.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 - 21:30
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