Over 500 Killed in India's Monsoon Floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:25 PM GMT on June 21, 2013

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Earth's deadliest natural disaster so far in 2013 is the deadly flooding in India's Himalayan Uttarakhand region, where torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 556 people, with hundreds more feared dead. At least 5,000 people are missing. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Uttarakhand received more than three times (329%) of its normal June rainfall from June 1 - 21, and rainfall was 847% of normal during the week June 13 - 19. Satellite estimates indicate that more than 20" (508 mm) or rain fell in a 7-day period from June 11 - 17 over some regions of Uttarakhand, which lies just to the west of Nepal in the Himalayas. Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, received 14.57" (370 mm) of rain in 24 hours on June 16 - 17. This was the highest 24-hour rainfall in city history, according to an official from the India Meteorological Department. Dr. Dave Petley's Landslide Blog details that the torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that hit Uttarakhand's Hindu shrine in Kedarnath, which lies just a short distance from the snout of two mountain glaciers. The shrine is an important pilgrimage destination this time of year, and was packed with visitors celebrating the char-dham yatra: a pilgrimage to the four holy sites of Gangotri, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Badrinath. Apparently, heavy rainfall triggered a collapse event on the mountain above Kedarnath, which turned into a debris flow downstream that struck the town. The main temple was heavily damaged, and numerous buildings in the town were demolished. It was Earth's deadliest landslide since the August 2010 Zhouqu landslide in China.

According to Aon Benfield's May Catastrophe Report, Earth's deadliest natural disasters of 2013 so far:

Winter weather, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, 1/1 - 1/20, 329 deaths
Earthquake, China, 4/20, 196 deaths
Flooding, Southern Africa, 1/10 - 2/28, 175 deaths
Flooding, Argentina, 4/2 - 4/4, 70 deaths
Flooding, Kenya, 3/10 - 4/30, 66 deaths


Figure 1. Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) arrive to rescue stranded Sikh devotees from Hemkunt Sahib Gurudwara, a religious Sikh temple, to a safe place in Chamoli district, in northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, India, Monday, June 17, 2013. AP photo.


Figure 2. Satellite-estimated rainfall for the 7-day period June 11 - 17, 2013, from NASA's TRMM satellite exceeded 20 inches (508 mm) over portions of India's Uttarakhand province, leading to catastrophic floods. Image credit: NASA.

A record early arrival of the monsoon
The June 2013 monsoon rains in Uttarakhand were highly unusual, as the monsoon came to the region two weeks earlier than normal. The monsoon started in South India near the normal June 1 arrival date, but then advanced across India in unusually rapid fashion, arriving in Pakistan along the western border of India on June 16, a full month earlier than normal. This was the fastest progression of the monsoon on record. The previous record for fastest monsoon progression occurred in 1961, when all of India was under monsoon conditions by June 21. Reliable monsoon records go back to 1961, and are patchy before then. Fortunately, no more heavy rain is expected in Uttarakhand over the next few days, as the monsoon will be active only in eastern India. Heavy rains are expected again in the region beginning on June 24. Wunderblogger Lee Grenci's post, Summer Monsoon Advances Rapidly across India: Massive Flooding Ensues, has more detail on the meteorology of this year's monsoon. There is criticism from some that the devastating floods were not entirely a natural disaster--human-caused deforestation, dam building, and mining may have contributed. "Large-scale construction of dams and absence of environmental regulations has led to the floods," said Sunita Narian, director general of Delhi based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).


Figure 3. The summer monsoon arrived in southwest India right on schedule (June 1) in South India, but it spread northward much faster than usual, reaching Pakistan a full month earlier than normal. Solid green contours indicate the progress of the 2013 summer monsoon (each contour is labeled with a date). You can compare this year's rapid advance to a "normal" progression, which is represented by the dashed, red contours (also labeled with dates).

Monsoons in India: a primer
Disastrous monsoon floods are common in India and surrounding nations, and 60,000 people--an average of 500 people per year--died in India due to monsoon floods between 1900 - 2012, according to EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. EM-DAT lists sixteen flood disasters which killed 1,000 or more people in India since records began in 1950. Here are the number of people killed in these events, along with the month and year of occurrence and locales affected:

4892, Jul 1968, Rajasthan, Gujara
3800, Jul 1978, North, Northeast
2001, May - Oct, 1994, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh
2000, Jul 1961, North
1811, Aug 1998, Assam, Arunachal, Bihar
1600, Aug 1980, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
1591, Jul 28, 1989, Maharashtra, Andhra Prade
1479, Sep 1995, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab
1442, Aug 1997, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal
1200, Jul 24 - Aug 5, 2005 Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh
1200, Aug 1987, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal
1103, Jul 3 - Sep 22, 2007, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh
1063, Jun 11 - Jul 21, 2008 West Bengal, Orissa
1023, Jun 1971, North
1000, Sep 22 - Oct 9, 1988, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh
1000, Oct 1961

The monsoon occurs in summer, when the sun warms up land areas more strongly than ocean areas. This happens because wind and ocean turbulence mix the ocean's absorbed heat into a "mixed layer" approximately 50 meters deep, whereas on land, the sun's heat penetrates at a slow rate to a limited depth. Furthermore, due to its molecular properties, water has the ability to absorb more heat than the solid materials that make up land. As a result of this summertime differential heating of land and ocean, a low pressure region featuring rising air develops over land areas. Moisture-laden ocean winds blow towards the low pressure region and are drawn upwards once over land. The rising air expands and cools, condensing its moisture into some of the heaviest rains on Earth--the monsoon. Monsoons operate via the same principle as the familiar summer afternoon sea breeze, but on a grand scale. Each summer, monsoons affect every continent on Earth except Antarctica, and are responsible for life-giving rains that sustain the lives of billions of people. In India, home for over 1.1 billion people, the monsoon provides 80% of the annual rainfall. The most deadly flooding events usually come from monsoon depressions (also known as monsoon lows.) A monsoon depression is similar to (but larger than) a tropical depression. Both are spinning storms hundreds of kilometers in diameter with sustained winds of 50 - 55 kph (30 - 35 mph), nearly calm winds at their center, and generate very heavy rains. Typically, 6 - 7 monsoon depressions form each summer over the Bay of Bengal and track westwards across India.

The future of monsoons in India
A warming climate loads the dice in favor of heavier extreme precipitation events. This occurs because more water vapor can evaporate into a warmer atmosphere, increasing the chances of record heavy downpours. In a study published in Science in 2006, Goswami et al. found that the level of heavy rainfall activity in the monsoon over India had more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1950s, leading to an increased disaster potential from heavy flooding. Moderate and weak rain events decreased during those 50 years, leaving the total amount of rain deposited by the monsoon roughly constant. The authors commented, "These findings are in tune with model projections and some observations that indicate an increase in heavy rain events and a decrease in weak events under global warming scenarios." We should expect to see an increased number of disastrous monsoon floods in coming decades if the climate continues to warm as expected. Since the population continues to increase at a rapid rate in the region, death tolls from monsoon flooding disasters are likely to climb dramatically in coming decades. However, my greater concern for India is drought. The monsoon rains often fail during El NiƱo years, and more than 4.2 million people died in India due to droughts between 1900 - 2012. Up until the late 1960s, it was common for the failure of the monsoon rains to kill millions of people in India. The drought of 1965 - 1967 killed at least 1.5 million people. However, since the Green Revolution of the late 1960s--a government initiative to improve food self-sufficiency using new technology and high-yield grains--failure of the monsoon rains has not led to mass starvation in India. It is uncertain whether of not the Green Revolution can keep up with India's booming population, and the potential that climate change might bring more severe droughts. Climate models show a wide range of possibilities for the future of the Indian monsoon, and it is unclear at present what the future might hold. However, the fact that one of the worst droughts in India's history occurred in 2009 shows that serious droughts have to be a major concern for the future. The five worst Indian monsoons along with the rainfall deficits for the nation:

1) 1877, -33%
2) 1899, -29%
3) 1918, -25%
4) 1972, -24%
5) 2009, -22%

References
Goswami, et al., 2006, " Increasing Trend of Extreme Rain Events Over India in a Warming Environment", Science, 1 December 2006:Vol. 314. no. 5804, pp. 1442 - 1445 DOI: 10.1126/science.1132027

Wunderground's climate change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood wrote a nice 3-part series about the challenges India faces due to climate change after he completed a 2009 trip there.


Video 1. Flood waters claim a multi-story apartment building in Uttarakhand province, India, on June 17, 2013.

Historic flooding in Calgary, Alberta
Torrential rainfall on Wednesday night and Thursday has resulted in the most extensive flooding in Alberta Province, Canada in at least 8 years, with some 100,000 people facing evacuations in the city of Calgary. Wunderblogger Christopher C. Burt has a look at the disaster in his latest post. The floods are due, in part to the "stuck" jet stream pattern that brought record heat to Alaska this week.

Jeff Masters

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Viewing: 1958 - 1908

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1958. MahFL
Quoting HurricaneAndre:
look at that massive wave almost coming off of Africa,that could get interesting.


Looks too low to me, will run into South America.
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1957. pcola57
Quoting mikatnight:


You got that right. If yer swattin' at skeeters and hittin' 'em most every swing, they's a bunch of 'em. They're bad around here in the morning and evening, and we're by the coast. It gets progressively worse the further west you go.


Morning mik..
Here's an info link to the CDC and their last weeks report..

Click HERE for more info
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Member Since: March 12, 2013 Posts: 102 Comments: 100507
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Now that a new day is here, time for a quick catch-up on the Alaskan heat wave. This first image shows the high temperatures forecast for the state on Thursday. Note that temps in the 80s are even predicted for the North Slope:

Alaska

Here is the NWS forecast for Fairbanks. Some may call this "normal summer weather", and I suppose it would be--if we were talking about, say, Chicago. Fairbanks is on schedule to end the month with June being by far the warmest month ever recorded there. (And with the long-range forecast showing highs in the 90s at least through next Sunday, July may be in the running, as well.)

Alaska

I realize a few sensitive types took offense at my posting this yesterday, but, well, it is what it is. After all, we can't pretend that it isn't happening, can we? ;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting islander101010:
floridians need to keep a look out for an encephalitis outbreak going to be no shortage of mosquitos this yr. just waiting for the birds


You got that right. If yer swattin' at skeeters and hittin' 'em most every swing, they's a bunch of 'em. They're bad around here in the morning and evening, and we're by the coast. It gets progressively worse the further west you go.
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1951. pcola57
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1950. ARiot
Quoting ncstorm:
I guess I will post this since no one has but the drought monitor map has really improved..especially for my area..



That is great news, and I have family in a formerly "severe area" that is now recovering.

I think the big story is the fact that in the big area that is still red, they are using fossil water.

I don't think anyone knows the aquifer's specific recharge rate or how much capacity is really there, and that's why folks with a long-term view are freaked out about it.
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Quoting unknowncomic:
What is it?


I don't know of any new record being set.

Hurricane Wilma holds the record at 882MB
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Wilma
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Quoting SPLbeater:


We have a new Atlantic record for deepest cyclonic pressure.
What is it?
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Quoting SPLbeater:
I do believe this is 'Cosme'...Barely clipped by Ascat, strongest windspeeds caught though.


OSCAT Pass

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Member Since: March 12, 2013 Posts: 102 Comments: 100507
ECL now doing serious damage down the coast from Sydney.

Debris over Beach Rd Caseys Beach due to Kingtides. Promenade at Batemans Bay isolated over 200mtr with water inundation.



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I do believe this is 'Cosme'...Barely clipped by Ascat, strongest windspeeds caught though.
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Quoting unknowncomic:
Could be a surprise.


We have a new Atlantic record for deepest cyclonic pressure.
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morning, everyone...

shear still high in the atl but looking at areas in the caribbean and gom and that's another story...
btw @ 8:25 a.m. it's 81 degrees in ecfl
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Quoting StormTrackerScott:
Very wet weather continues for the SE US. My monthly rain total is up to 14.42" for June with some areas just to my west in Apopka up to 18" of rain for June. Very impressive considering average is 7.70"



Mornin' Scott...
We got a brief shower yesterday morning, but it only amounted to a trace. Over 2 weeks now with no appreciable rainfall. Of course, when it does finally rain it'll probably be a deluge.


Mangroves get a start at Bicentennial Park...


while Pete the pelican...


waits for the Lady K to return...


as the bridge workers work...


on a pretty Monday morning!
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Quoting SPLbeater:


Pinhole eye!
Could be a surprise.
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Quoting unknowncomic:
Small, but its spinnin at 52W , 12N.



Pinhole eye!
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Quoting ncstorm:
SE and gulf coast states..get use to the rain because the CMC has it sticking around for a while where some places could see up to 10 inches of rain..through 240 hours



From what ive seen, the CMC is notorious for exaggerating forecast rainfall amounts...by more than a little...
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Small, but its spinnin at 52W , 12N.

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Quoting pcola57:


Morning ncstorm..
What does CMC show 5 days out?


Mornin' PC!

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The CMC is predicting a Cat 1 Hurricane in the EPAC in just over a week too.



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Quoting islander101010:
what if a 1928 kind of system blew through miami? are you ready?


Good morning Islander! Good question. Nearly 64 years since Palm Beach County experienced a major. A lot of folks think of themselves as seasoned after the '04 storms and Wilma the next year. But max sustained for all three was only 84 mph (PBIA). If a major ever hits, it's going to be a rude awakening.

Speaking of waking (pic @ 7:01am)...
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1933. SLU
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1932. ncstorm
SE and gulf coast states..get use to the rain because the CMC has it sticking around for a while where some places could see up to 10 inches of rain..through 240 hours

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1931. pwmeek
Quoting zampaz:

{snip}Things in the world are mostly average with the usual statistical outliers{snip}

LOL, I was thinking the same just last week. I may clip that statement for general use. Might even make a good sig-line.

(I'd be happy to give you credit at any level of detail you want.)
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floridians need to keep a look out for an encephalitis outbreak going to be no shortage of mosquitos this yr. just waiting for the birds
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Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1219
1928. pcola57
Quoting biff4ugo:
Good Morning/Evening.

That UV index seems backwards. If you are in the sun for 30 min. you will always burn but if you are out there for 150 min. you will RARELY burn? That doesn't make sense at any level to me.
Even stake would burn more with longer exposure and not be "Rare".
If you "Always" burn, then your skin would be light i.e. not black. For this level the graph seems to pick black.
Dark skin that would burn rarely would be dark/black and not light. The graph chooses the lightest color for the most sun tolerance.
What does the upper limit of the color mean? Everybody burns?
Shouldn't that be where the red and pink colors are darkest and not the light, pale, barely burned colors? I give that graph an F on intuitive.


It takes a read and re-read to get it biff..
I found looking at the time line helped me..
Yes they (WU) could have done a better job of representing the data..
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1927. FOREX
Quoting ncstorm:


another Andrea type of situation where the CMC might be first on everything..I think the CMC will win this battle as well..


Just might.lol
Member Since: August 17, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2335
1926. pcola57
Quoting ncstorm:


fixed it


TY ncstorm.. :)
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Good Morning/Evening.

That UV index seems backwards. If you are in the sun for 30 min. you will always burn but if you are out there for 150 min. you will RARELY burn? That doesn't make sense at any level to me.
Even stake would burn more with longer exposure and not be "Rare".
If you "Always" burn, then your skin would be light i.e. not black. For this level the graph seems to pick black.
Dark skin that would burn rarely would be dark/black and not light. The graph chooses the lightest color for the most sun tolerance.
What does the upper limit of the color mean? Everybody burns?
Shouldn't that be where the red and pink colors are darkest and not the light, pale, barely burned colors? I give that graph an F on intuitive.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 115 Comments: 1599
1924. ncstorm
Quoting pcola57:


NO Worky.. :)


fixed it
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1923. pcola57
Quoting ncstorm:


here is the link for the CMC..


NO Worky.. :)
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1922. ncstorm
Quoting pcola57:


Morning ncstorm..
What does CMC show 5 days out?


here is the link for the CMC
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1921. ncstorm
I guess I will post this since no one has but the drought monitor map has really improved..especially for my area..

24 weeks ago


12 Weeks ago



4 weeks ago


and NOW
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Bye to 95E.

NHC_ATCF
invest_DEACTIVATE_ep952013.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201306241123
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END
Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14764
Strong MJO Pulse moving toward the Caribbean & Gulf come the 1st of July.

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1918. ncstorm
Quoting StormTrackerScott:
Very wet weather continues for the SE US. My monthly rain total is up to 14.42" for June with some areas just to my west in Apopka up to 18" of rain for June. Very impressive considering average is 7.70"



We have had rain all last week and starting off again this morning with thunderstorms and heavy rain..we have been in either under a flood warning or advisory for a minute now..



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For those interested, I made a blog update on Cosme. Enjoy.

Tropical Storm Cosme forms over the eastern Pacific
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Very wet weather continues for the SE US. My monthly rain total is up to 14.42" for June with some areas just to my west in Apopka up to 18" of rain for June. Very impressive considering average is 7.70"

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1915. barbamz

The turning of Cosme in the EPAC.
Member Since: October 25, 2008 Posts: 62 Comments: 6509
1914. pcola57
Quoting ncstorm:
Good Morning..CMC still on a GOM storm--really intensifies it..almost a Cat 2 hurricane







Morning ncstorm..
What does CMC show 5 days out?
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1913. ncstorm
Quoting FOREX:


GFS has a weak event.


another Andrea type of situation where the CMC might be first on everything..I think the CMC will win this battle as well..
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1912. pcola57
Good Morning All..
Very soupy 77 degrees with 94%rh and dew at 75..
Overcast with winds barely 3.5mph from the North..


Beach looks ok..
A high UV day though..





The UV Index is a forecast of the probable intensity of skin damaging ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface during the solar noon hour: 11:30-12:30 Local Standard Time, or 12:30-13:30 Local Daylight Time. The greater the UV Index is the greater the amount of skin damaging UV radiation. How much UV radiation is needed to actually damage one's skin is dependent on several factors. In general, the darker one's skin is that is, the more melanin one has in his/her skin the longer (or the more UV radiation) it takes to cause erythema (skin reddening).
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Another look at the 00z CMC.

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14764
1910. FOREX
Quoting ncstorm:
Good Morning..CMC still on a GOM storm--really intensifies it..almost a Cat 2 hurricane







GFS has a weak event.
Member Since: August 17, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2335
1909. ncstorm
Good Morning..CMC still on a GOM storm--really intensifies it..almost a Cat 2 hurricane





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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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