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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 24 January, 2021

  • 9 Min Read

Flash Droughts

Flash Droughts

What are Flash droughts?

  • Flash droughts are those that occur very quickly, with soil moisture depleting rapidly.
  • Normally, developing drought conditions take months, but these happen within a week or in two weeks’ time.
  • Several factors including atmospheric anomalies, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play an important role.
  • In 1979, India faced a severe flash drought, affecting about 40% of the country and taking a toll on agriculture.
  • An article published that year in the journal India International Centre Quarterly noted that the big granaries of Uttar Pradesh and Andhra were affected, and the country suffered a loss of about ?5,000 crores.

A new study has now pointed out that India could experience more such flash droughts by the end of this century.

  • “The ongoing climate change has caused a significant increase in global temperature and this can lead to more and more flash droughts in the coming years.
  • If we can meet the ‘Paris Agreement’ goals and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, the numbers and frequency of the projected flash droughts may go down.
  • He is the corresponding author of the paper published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Parameters of study

  • The team analysed the major flash droughts that occurred from 1951 to 2016 in India.
  • They simulated the soil moisture using the meteorological data obtained from the India meteorological department.
  • Duration, intensity, and area of the flash droughts were studied and an overall severity score was given.
  • The top five flash droughts based on the overall severity score occurred in 1979 followed by 2009,1951,1986 and 2005.

Community Earth System Model

  • To predict the future flash droughts the team used a Community Earth System Model which simulates the summer monsoon precipitation, sea surface temperature, role of El Nino Southern Oscillation, and air temperature over India.
  • The analysis showed a considerable rise in the frequency of extremely dry and hot years in the coming three decades.
  • They also examined the role of greenhouse gas emissions, industrial aerosols, and land-use/land-cover change. “The frequency of concurrent hot and dry extremes is projected to rise by about five-fold, causing an approximately seven-fold increase in flash droughts like 1979 by the end of the 21st century,” adds the paper.
  • They conclude that this increased frequency of flash droughts can have deleterious implications for crop production, irrigation demands and groundwater abstraction in India.

Predicting droughts

  • The team has planned future studies that will consider the flash-drought prediction ahead of time using operational meteorological forecasts from India Meteorological Department. They explain that this will help manage irrigation water demands and avoid considerable losses in agriculture.

Source: TH


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