Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Climate vagaries [UPDATED]




1,000 are dead from flooding in Pakistan after monsoon rains, said to be "the heaviest Pakistan has seen in three decades." Here's the drumbeat:
WASHINGTON POST: "'Pakistan was already facing the disastrous effects of climate change,' Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's minister of climate change, said...

NPR: "A climate catastrophe has killed more than 1,000

BBC: "...climate catastrophe..."

REUTERS: "...a victim of climate change..."

NZ HERALD: "...climate change..."

RNZ: "...climate change..."
“We are at the moment at the ground zero of the front line of extreme weather events," says Pakistan's much-retweeted climate minister. A politician. Could it be instead that we are near ground zero in hyperbolic context-free climate scare-mongering? With politicians eager to leverage "extreme weather events" in their favour?

Here is some climate geography:

Pakistan's climate is a continental type of climate, characterized by extreme variations in temperature ... The monsoon and the Western Disturbance are the two main factors that alter the weather over Pakistan.... [The] Southwest Monsoon occurs in summer from the month of June till September in almost whole Pakistan ...

What is this "Southwest Monsoon"?

The Southwest or the Asian Summer Monsoon is essentially a colossal sea breeze that brings South Asia 70-80 percent of its annual rainfall between June and September every year.
    It occurs when summer heat warms the landmass of the subcontinent, causing the air to rise and sucking in cooler Indian Ocean winds which then produce enormous volumes of rain.     Why it is important?
    The monsoon is vital for agriculture and therefore for the livelihoods of millions of farmers and for food security in the poor region of around two billion 
    But it brings destruction every year in landslides and floods. Melting glaciers add to the volume of water while unregulated construction in flood-prone areas exacerbates the damage.
    Is it the same every year?
    Despite being heavily studied, the monsoon is relatively poorly understood. Exactly where and when the rain will fall is hard to forecast and varies considerably...

So in short... 

    Monsoon rains bring much awaited relief from the scorching summer heat. These monsoon rains are quite heavy by nature and can cause significant flooding, even severe flooding if they interact with westerly waves in the upper parts of the country.

How significant?

Pakistan has seen many floods, ... including the flood of 1950, which killed 2910 people; on 1 July 1977 heavy rains and flooding in Karachi, killed 248 people, according to Pakistan meteorological department 207 millimetres (8.1 in) of rain fell in 24 hours.[6] In 1992 flooding during Monsoon season killed 1,834 people across the country, in 1993 flooding during Monsoon rains killed 3,084 people.... 2010 July floods swept 20% of Pakistan's land, the flood is the result of unprecedented Monsoon rains which lasted from 28 July to 31 July 2010.... [causing] 1,781 deaths, 2,966 people with injuries, and more than 1.89 million homes destroyed.[8] The flood affected more than 20 million people.
Pakistan, of course, has only been in existence since 1947, emerging after India's partition. And it has been experiencing "large changes" in climate over all that time. It is historically less subject to monsoon rains than are India and Bangladesh, the other two results of partition. But monsoon flooding in South Asia and the Indian sub-continent , with great loss of life, goes back ... centuries, not just decades. It is unpredictable.
One of the most commonly used words to describe the erratic nature of the monsoon is [or used to be]"vagaries", used in newspapers,[17] magazines,[18] books,[19] web portals[20] to insurance plans,[21] and India's budget discussions.[22] In some years, it rains too much, causing floods in parts of India; in others, it rains too little or not at all, causing droughts. In some years, the rain quantity is sufficient but its timing arbitrary. Sometimes, despite average annual rainfall, the daily distribution or geographic distribution of the rain is substantially skewed.
Erratic. Unpredictable. Essential to agriculture. And always potentially tragic. But people are not helpless: "If a drought strikes them, animals perish—man builds irrigation canals; if a flood strikes them, animals perish—man builds dams..." And so they have --- as wealth has increased, energy use and technology improved, and flood-control measures able to be implemented, the phenomenon has become less tragic and more controlled. 

Let's not be at "ground zero" in using tragedy to push politicised science.

UPDATE: Pakistan 'Planning' Minister makes it explicit: "Richer countries have a 'responsibility' to help Pakistan deal with flooding and prevent future disasters because they've caused climate change."

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