Climate change: Uttarakhand

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Mean annual temperature


Shivani Azad, June 24, 2020: The Times of India

The hills of Uttarakhand are getting warmer. The state’s pollution control board studied climate and rainfall data over a 100-year span, from 1912-2012, and found the mean annual temperature went up by 0.46°C. The change, which appears small in absolute terms, means a large amount of heat accumulating over a long period. And that has had a cascading effect, both ecological and economic.

Before 1950, the report said that there were no notable changes in the temperature. Between 1970 and 1990, it actually dipped.

But since 1990, it has been on an upward spike. Within the state, Pithoragarh witnessed the highest spike (0.58°C), followed by Chamoli (0.54°C), Rudraprayag (0.53°C), Bageshwar (0.52°C) and Uttarkashi (0.51°C) — all hill districts. The plains fared better — Haridwar saw an increase of 0.34°C, the lowest, followed by Dehradun (0.37°C) and Udham Singh Nagar (0.42°C). As a point of reference, in 2019, the average global surface temperature was up by 0.98°C since 1880, according to NASA.

Rainfall deficit over the past century, meanwhile, has been a significant 13.05cm. “The decrease in rainfall, especially during rainy months June-September, indicates that the climate of the state is changing notably,” the report said. The Satzlar (low-intensity continuous rain over seven days in mid-July, when the Harela festival is celebrated), has stopped entirely. “The most important change is very rare (occurrence) or absence of snowfall events in the lesser Himalayan region and complete absence of the Satzlar.”

The ecological impact is evident. Uttarakhand is home to 968 glaciers — 407 in the Alaknanda basin, 271 in Kaliganga, 238 in Bhagirathi and 52 in Yamuna. With temperatures rising and the glaciers melting away, pro-glacial lakes have formed in these basins.

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