People in parts of North and Central India, including Delhi, can be forgiven for mistaking the recent spell of rains and the prevailing chill for the monsoon, which is incidentally quite far away from the mainland.
The ‘change agent’ for these freaky weather conditions is Cyclone ‘Tauktae’ that traversed the whole of the Arabian Sea before straying into the dusty northern region.
A remnant of the cyclone not only led the skies to pour it down over a terrain that normally sizzles during this time of the year but washed away many records in the process.
Straying from its course
“It was as mischievous a cyclone as it was exceptional,” says GP Sharma, President, Meteorology and Climate Change at Skymet Weather, the country’s leading private forecaster.
According to Roxy Mathew Koll, Scientist, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, sea-surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea have increased rapidly during the past century, leading to active convection, heavy rainfall, and intense cyclones.
Recent research shows that widespread extreme rainfall events have increased threefold in response to the Arabian Sea warming.
Sharma said that the country has the technology and the techniques to predict the track and landfall of a cyclone. But ‘Tauktae’ changed goal posts at will on three occasions.
The cyclone will go down in history for having impacted such a vast expanse of geography — right from Lakshadweep-Maldives, Kerala, Mahe, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Dadra-Nagar-Haveli, Gujarat, Diu, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to Madhya Pradesh.
Breaking summer’s back
Delhi received an all-time high of 24-hour rainfall of 119 mm on Wednesday as the cyclone remnant sped in from Gujarat coast; it also recorded the second lowest day temperature of 23.8 degree Celsius since 1951, and the lowest minimum temperature in the last 10 years at 19.3 degree Celsius on Thursday morning.
Diurnal variation (variation between a high and a low temperature during the same day) was also very low at 2.4 degree Celsius this May, especially its second half which normally sees maximum day temperatures in the range of 40-45 degree Celsius.
“Also, one hasn’t seen a major dust-storm during May so far. These are all changes from the normal weather pattern,” says Sharma.
More to come
According to Koll, the Arabian Sea will continue warming due to increasing carbon emissions, resulting in more intense cyclones. We need to be prepared, but how? “One way to reduce the impact of extreme weather events is to work on our natural defences, such as mangroves. Historically, Mumbai and Goa have had a lot of mangroves. We need to bring them back,” says Koll.