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Get ready for more freaky weather

HYDERABAD: India will see more intense freak weather in the coming days, warned climate change scientists, days after hailstorms killed at least 10 people and wounded scores in Andhra Pradesh and similar storms destroyed crops across Karnataka and Maharashtra. 

"The keyword is that these extreme events will increase under climate change and we need to gear up quickly to counter it before it's too late through drastic cuts on fossil fuel emissions and micro-level climate vulnerability assessment at local levels," says G Bala, a top climate change expert at the Indian Institute of Science's Divecha Centre for Climate Change in Bangalore. 

In absence of micro-level assessment, officials are struggling to answer why places like Hyderabad got heavy rainfall in early March and sudden hailstorms destroyed crops over lakhs of acres in Warangal, Bidar in Karnataka or Nashik and Aurangabad in Maharashtra this week. 

Scientists predict that the frequency of extreme weather is likely to increase with fewer rainy days, but more quantum of rainfall, because of greater intensity and severe drought hitting other places. 

They say states should immediately carry out a micro-level study to assess the unpredictable weather as the country's fossil fuel emission is reaching alarming levels with no effort being made by governments to address climate change at local levels. 

"Knowledge is very important and information about climate change must be provided to politicians and policymakers. But there is simply no information. Climate action plans prepared by some states lack quality that is based on science," says Bala. 

India in 2009 said it will reduce its emissions intensity by 25% and agreed with other developed countries to keep global warming at a check and keep rate of growth in global temperature under 2 degrees in this century. 

However, an international study led by Britain's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research released in November last year revealed India was among the biggest contributors to fossil fuel emissions in 2012 with carbon dioxide emissions rising by a whopping 7.7%, mostly from burning coal. 

Scientists said last June's cloudburst in Uttarakhand, a severe cold wave in north India this year, heavy snowfall in Chevella last January, and Bangalore city recording 32 degree Celsius in January this year, are all extreme local weather phenomenon, which needs to be studied and analyzed properly. 

"What needs to happen is a clear micro-level vulnerability assessment that can help us understand and prepare for these unusual weather," says Siddharth Pathak, an International policy coordinator at the Climate Action Network International. 

Local scientists now calculate India's fossil fuel emission at 60% more than what it was 20 years ago, with the country all set to breach the 2 degree temperature rise mark in future. 

"Temperatures are going to rise with higher intensity across the country unless steps are taken to reduce emissions drastically," says Raman Sukumar, an ecological scientist at Indian Institute of Science. 

Back in Hyderabad, RV Subba Rao, a retired meteorologist, who is busy studying the weather charts, says the wind pattern has been different this March and thinks the state could have early monsoon. 

"Climate change is occurring due to development of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean and the freaky weather condition as a result could continue till May this year," he says. 

"More research on climate vulnerability would only help as this early March weather has been something that I have not seen here before," he says. 

The Times of India (12-03-2014)