Recent rains and Western Disturbances
Recently, large parts of Northern and North Western India witnessed heavy unseasonable rains along with hill storms and strong winds.
Recent rains and Western disturbances;-
Parts of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir receive heavy precipitation. Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand saw snowfall too.
The primary cause of these storms are western disturbances. Western disturbance is a weather phenomena which is formed in the Mediterranean region. The high pressure area which develops around Ukraine draws cold polar winds which creates cyclogenesis in the upper atmosphere. This one is a moisture laden wind which picks up moisture from the Mediterranean sea and even the Atlantic Ocean. This is then carried by the westerlies in lower atmosphere all the way to India passing across Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan.
These moisture carrying Winds upon reaching Indian subcontinent are blocked by the Himalayas and shed their moisture in the form of rain, hail, snow.
These are termed ‘disturbance’ because it disturbs the normal weather conditions. Western disturbance is seen during the winter months majorly in January, February, sometimes March too. The westerly winds generated by this disturbance will be interacting with the easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal that will penetrate the plains of northwest India, thereby causing rainfall and creating unstable conditions over the region.
The rains brought by them is so intense that India receives five to ten percent of the total annual rainfall from the western disturbances alone.
The temperature scrolls down causing cool weather and cold winds. Western disturbances are non-monsoonal patterns, which are produced in mid-latitudes and not in tropical regions. That is why they are also called Extratropical storms. They usually are isolated in the north of the tropic of Cancer but in rare cases can extend towards tropical regions as well. It sometimes also helps in the activation of monsoon in Northern India. And on an average 4-5 spells of Western disturbances are seen in India.
Impact of Western Disturbances
Generally these western disturbances have a significant impact on agricultural activity in India. These rains are beneficial for Indian farmers as they bring much needed rains for the growth of Rabi crop which is sown in the winter season such as sweet potato, gram, and harvested during spring season. Wheat is an important crop for India, which is very significant for ensuring India’s food security. This way, irrigation needs are fulfilled naturally. But the current unseasonal rains around the time of Holi are responsible for damaging the ripe crop which was ready to be harvested.
Damages and casualties
Due to this drenching heavy rains, hail storms and gusty winds more than 1 lakh hectares of wheat crop is lodged that is the standing ripe crop is flattened. Due to lodging the crop is damaged and the yield becomes very low. Also the fields are left with water accumulation rotting not only the crops but also spreading so many diseases.
Punjab was expecting a bumper wheat crop this season but a lot of it stands damaged now, mostly in the Northern districts of Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh. The crop yield can fall by 6-7% according to the agricultural department.
The storms and rains caused by the Western Disturbances are generally mild and do not cause heavy damage but the Leh cloudburst of 2010 and the Kashmir floods of 2014 which rendered 225 and 200 people dead respectively attributed to Western disturbances.
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