CHENNAI: On March 23 this year, while observing the World Meteorological Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invoked the subject of climate change when he warned about extreme weather events becoming “the new normal”.
He was not exaggerating, as according to the World Meteorological Organisation, the year 2015 proved to be exceptional – shattering temperature records, with intense heatwave, exceptional rainfall and devastating drought observed across the globe – and has been officially called the ‘hottest year on record’ as yet.
Closer to home, we have witnessed the deluge of rainfall that occurred in December last, only to now receive a weather advisory from district officials on the intense heatwave. Weather experts feel the time has now come for concrete steps to be taken to face the future, which seemingly looks uncertain. Attributing the ‘extremes’ to climate change, K Palanivelu, director, Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation Research, Anna University, said, “In the future, the intensity and frequency (of heatwaves) will increase. This is due to the increase of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (400 parts per million now), global warming and consequent climate change. In coming decades, the number of night-days with higher temperatures will increase in the summer.”
N Jayanthi, former additional director general, Indian Meteorological Department, feels that while the studies on the phenomenon of El-Nino is progressing, attention could perhaps be shifted to adaptation and mitigation efforts. “As compared to mean values, a considerable amount of variability is now increasingly being seen, and as a result, extreme weather events are happening,” she said.
Says S R Ramanan, former director of Area Cyclone Warning Centre, Chennai, “A lot of climatic changes we now see is due to urbanisation.” As of now, people should be prepared to face any situation.”
For a man who briefed the media for a long time on weather updates until his recent retirement, Ramanan was forthcoming when he said, “Forecast is secondary, preparation (to meet the future) is primary.”