Scientists are loath to link individual weather events with climate change. But there is a growing consensus among climate researchers that warmer ocean and atmospheric temperatures have intensified storms.
Every year for the past few years, the planet has broken its own temperature records. There are, as we speak, continental scale wildfires sweeping across Siberia, North America, Turkey and record floods recently ravaged parts of Europe.
In Nepal, too, prolonged winter drought unleashed widespread wildfires. When the rains arrived, they struck with unusual ferocity in the Himalayan rain shadow.
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Manang saw fires burn continuously for three months this winter. Monsoon cloudbursts then hit slopes recently scorched, reducing the soil’s absorptive capacity. The runoff fed into the Marsyangdi system, washing away settlements and infrastructure.
In Sindhupalchok, the combination of the destabilising effect of the 2015 earthquake, the wildfires combined with record-breaking precipitation turned the watershed into mud paste.
The latest aerial clips of the upper Melamchi valley show a massive collapse of glacio-fluvial and lake deposits by extremely heavy precipitation on 15-16 June.
Nepal now has a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA) to carry out hazard mapping, recommend settlement zoning, infrastructure planning and provide early warning. But a nationwide warning of ‘heavier than usual precipitation’ that it issued in June was of little use — more accurate, localised forecasting is needed.