Mumbai Rains 2020: City experiencing three days' rain, now in six hours
Two climate scientists, with over 55+ years of experience under their belt, look at Mumbai's weather patterns, say unless we give up our ACs and cars, city will continue to suffer
Last week, Mumbai recorded an all-time high rainfall for the month of July (1,474 mm)—more than its 2014 record (1,468.5 mm). While the intense spell of rainfall was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity, climate scientists who have been tracking weather conditions for decades say that the city's haphazard rainfall pattern is a cause for concern.
Mumbai's weather conditions took a drastic turn at the beginning of the 21st century—a predictable outcome of the rapid industrialisation that the city was and is still undergoing. Intense spells of rainfall increased, with the major difference being that now these moderate to heavy spells occurred over a much shorter period of time—leading to lesser percolation of underground water. Krishnanand Hosalikar, Deputy Director-General of Meteorology with the Indian Met Department (IMD-Mumbai), who has over 25 years of service under his belt, recalls his childhood days. "There used to be more than 100 days of rainfall back then, with light to moderate showers occurring continuously over a span of three to four days. While there was intense rainfall, it is more widespread now. The reason for this change is urbanisation. Concretisation has changed the land use pattern of the city. This has increased the water runoff. Earlier, rainfall would seep into the ground, but now, because of concrete and paver blocks, it is going into the gutters. This has also caused strain on the city's nullahs."
Hosalikar, who has published numerous research papers on the country's changing climate and weather conditions, says the city's monsoon pattern is undergoing a noticeable change. "The city's temperature is also rising…and there have been indications that the nights are becoming longer and days are becoming hotter," he adds.
Mahesh Palawat, 55, vice president, Meteorology and Climate Change, Skymet Weather, whose first job was as meteorologist for the Indian Air Force in 1986, says Mumbai's rainfall pattern and weather conditions began to take a drastic turn at the beginning of the 21st century. He says that back in the '90s, alto strata clouds, middle height clouds formed 8,000-10,000 feet above ground level, were much more prevalent than they are now. "This was a good thing. These were sheet clouds with good thickness, extending up to hundreds of kilometres. They were capable of giving continuous rainfall for two to three days. These clouds were able to provide drizzle or continuous light rain, which is beneficial for recharging groundwater."
Looking at the next five to 10 years, Palawat says that the city's extreme weather conditions will only see an increase. "Unless we restore the city's green cover and reduce our carbon footprint, there is little or no chance of reversing the effects of climate change. The thing is: people just don't care about the weather. Everyone is looking out for themselves…everyone wants air conditioners and multiple cars. People don't feel the pinch now, but when the oxygen content in the air reduces, the green cover will die, and extreme weather conditions will cause damage to life and property in the next 10 years, then maybe people will start taking weather changes seriously."
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