Amarnath Tragedy: What Are Cloudbursts? How Are They Linked to Climate Change?

A cloudburst near the Amarnath caves resulted in the death of at least 16 people. Here's all you need to know.

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At least 16 people died and over 20 were injured in flash floods triggered by a cloudburst near the Amarnath caves in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, 8 July.

As the Indian Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) continue to undertake relief work, at least 15,000 pilgrims have been safely evacuated from the site.

What are cloudbursts and how do they form? Here's all you need to know.

What is a cloudburst?

A cloudburst is an extreme precipitation event over a small area within a short duration of time. Cloudbursts result in sudden intense rainfall and are formed when warm air parcels interact with cooler air.

As per meteorologists, a rainfall rate equal to or great than 100 mm per hour can be classified as a cloudburst. While there are several devastating impacts of cloudbursts, they mostly result in flash floods, landslides, mudflows, and land cavings.

Which areas are more prone to cloudbursts?

While cloudbursts can occur in plains, hilly terrains and mountains are more vulnerable to the phenomenon. In India, places such as Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and areas in the Western Ghats are most affected by cloudbursts.

As per the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), cloudbursts are difficult to predict and we need a dense radar network over regions that are vulnerable to them.


Are cloudbursts linked to climate change?

Experts have time and again linked the rise in frequency of cloudbursts to climate change. As per a report by Down to Earth, at least 26 cloudbursts occurred in the Himalayan region from January through July 2021.

The report states that due to rising global sea temperatures, oceans are warming up fast, as a result of which moisture-rich air is reaching the Himalayan region, resulting in cloudbursts.

(With inputs from The Indian Express, Down to Earth.)

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