Absolute devastation: Cyclone Amphan ripped through West Bengal and Bangladesh on May 20, killing more than 100 people and rendering several more homeless | Photo: Scroll

Cyclone Amphan wreaks havoc in West Bengal, Bangladesh; scientists blame climate change for increased intensity

At least 85 people have died in West Bengal, while 22 lost their lives in Bangladesh as Cyclone Amphan ripped through the region on May 20. Kolkata was badly hit as well as several districts in Odisha with several people rendered homeless with no means of communication as telephone lines were down as were power connections. Officials said at least 1.5 crore people have been affected by the cyclone, which had a wind speed that went up to 150-160 km per hour in coastal areas.

Scientists have concluded that climate change is to blame for the rise in high-intensity cyclones of late. According to them, the damage caused by cyclones, including Amphan, has risen because of human activities that have increased sea surface temperatures, thereby pushing up the maximum potential energy that cyclones can reach.

Scientists also believe that a reduction in air pollution in South-East Asia because of the COVID-19 lockdown could have also had an influence on the intensity of the storm. Aerosols, which are a product of human-related air pollution, have the ability to decrease the intensity of storms. This is because aerosols reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, thereby cooling sea surface temperatures. But with the lockdown in place, aerosol levels have drastically reduced, which means sea surface temperatures have risen, thereby increasing the intensity of the cyclone.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said several parts of India will feel the after-effects of the cyclone. It predicted a two-four degrees Celsius rise in maximum temperature over northwest, central and west India immediately after the cyclone mostly because of the change in wind patterns.

Heatwave grips North India, conditions likely to expand in East and Central India over coming days

Parts of northern and central India are currently reeling from a severe heatwave with temperatures ranging from 42°C to 45°C over Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh since May 25. Churu in Rajasthan recorded the highest temperature of 47.5°C on May 25. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said that the conditions are likely to persist until May 28, and has forecast an easing of heatwave conditions May 29 onwards. The Met department has also said that conditions are likely to expand eastwards towards Bihar and Jharkhand and southwards up to parts of Andhra Pradesh over the next few days.

Locust invasion reported in India’s heartland

Locusts have invaded different parts of India. The city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, woke up to an unusual sight on Monday morning – a swarm of locusts flying in the sky. According to officials, the invasion has affected half of the 33 districts in the state. The locusts entered the state through Pakistan in April. Madhya Pradesh also reported its worst locust attack in 27 years. According to experts, if the invasion isn’t contained soon enough, the locusts will destroy moong cereal crop worth Rs5,000 crore. The Uttar Pradesh government has declared a state-wide alert after locusts invaded farms in around 17 districts. A few villages in eastern Maharashtra have also reported an invasion in the past few days.  

Expect above-normal hurricane season, say US forecasters

Hurricane season is about to begin in the US and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center is expecting an above-normal 13-19 named storms this year. This would be in keeping with the 18 named storms recorded last year and 15 in 2018.

In central Michigan, as floodwaters after severe storms began to recede, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency. The flooding, which came as a result of two dam failures, plunged parts of the city underwater, forcing thousands to evacuate. Making the situation worse was the fact that some of the water spread into a Dow Chemical Co plant and were confirmed to have reached the plant’s on-site containment ponds.

Scientists concerned about growing threat of ‘ozone-friendly’ chemicals

The levels of ‘ozone-friendly’ chemicals that are used in almost all new cars are increasing in the environment gradually and may lead to cancer, decreased fertility and liver damage, according to researchers. Scientists have found vast amounts of these long-lasting chemicals called short chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (scPFCAs) in Arctic ice samples from as far back as the 1990s. While scientists are not aware of the levels of toxicity of these chemicals, they are certain that they are contaminating the environment.

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