Damage Control: Central agencies have evacuated over 18 lakh people and set up 7,815 relief camps across 152 districts in nine states as monsoon rains offer no respite | Photo: Geospatial Media

1,058 deaths so far during 2019 monsoon in India, environment minister denies links with climate change despite clear signs

Western India continued to face the wrath of the Indian monsoon this fortnight. Floods triggered by heavy rainfall and reservoir overflows persisted across Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra, while Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and the lower Himalayan region were also hit by rainfall that was much above normal. Thus far, 1,058 deaths across nine states in the country have been attributed to floods and other rain-related causes this monsoon season, according to the Indian home ministry. With rainfall shifting northwards, several rivers in the Indo-Gangetic plains, including Ganga, Yamuna and their tributaries, have breached the danger mark and have set off fresh fears of flooding in north and northwest India.

India’s flood woes have also been marked by severely anomalous distribution that saw severe deficits in June followed by large excesses in the rainfall received since mid-July. Spatially, this has culminated in a surprising situation where 138 districts or 20% of the country, mostly situated in the west, have registered excess rains while almost 35% of the country is suffering deficits. The anomalous temporal and spatial distribution is being seen as further evidence of a shifting monsoon and increasing extreme rain days being brought on by climate change. Although the IMD is slated to reflect these changes in future definitions of monsoon, environment minister Prakash Javadekar has remained reluctant to recognise links between climate change and India’s increasing flooding.

Floods cut Bangladesh’s rice harvest by 400,000 tonnes

It’s not just India. Neighbouring Bangladesh has also been severely affected by rain-induced floods. Crops that would have yielded nearly 400,000 tonnes of rice were washed away, as per estimates from the country’s agriculture ministry. Officials, however, are not too worried about the impact on overall rice stocks citing the country’s ample reserves. Heavy rain and flooding have so far claimed at least 108 lives and affected 6 million people in Bangladesh.

Greenhouse gas levels broke records in 2018, says study

In 2018, greenhouse gases reached levels higher than ever before, according to a report published by the American Meteorological Society and compiled by the US government. According to the study, which collected data from 470 scientists in 60 countries, the warming influence of C02 and other gases is nearly 43% stronger than in 1990.

The year 2018 also broke other disturbing records. The study found sea levels to be at their highest ever in 2018, as were sea surface temperatures. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the report “found that the major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet”.

Alaska’s waters now ice-free, say scientists; likely to become norm every summer

Alaska’s waters are now completely ice-free, scientists said. The nearest ice shelf is now 240km away. This news follows reports of the region experiencing its warmest July on record. Just to compare, Professor Peter Wadhams from the University of Cambridge said that around 30 years ago, sea ice would be found in southern and northern Alaska waters, with just a narrow strip between ice and land through which ships would attempt to travel to the northwest. This drastic shrinkage will most likely lead to ice-free summers in the Arctic every year, scientists warned.

Dams, over-exploitation led to 88% decline in population of freshwater animals: Study

Hydroelectric dams in the world’s greatest river basins, such as the Mekong, Congo, Amazon and Ganges are increasingly hampering the movements of freshwater animals, resulting in a drastic decline in their populations, a new study has revealed. The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology, quantified the global decline of freshwater animals and the results are shocking – between 1970 and 2012, the populations of freshwater megafauna declined by 88%, which is twice the loss of vertebrate populations on land or in the ocean. The most affected are large fish species, such as river dolphins, crocodiles, giant turtles, which declined by more than 94% in the time period, according to the study.

The study, which compiled available time series data for 126 freshwater megafauna species worldwide and historical and contemporary geographic distribution data of 44 species in Europe and the USA, also identified another threat to freshwater animals – overexploitation as megafauna is often targeted for meat, skin and eggs.

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