Cloudbursts have become increasingly common in India.
In recent times, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Uttarakhand as well as the Western Ghats have witnessed cases of cloudbursts. These not only claim lives, but also cause widespread devastation.
We explain what they are, why they cause so much destruction and the potential causes behind the increase in frequency of cloudbursts.
A cloudburst is a sudden aggressive rainstorm falling for a short period of time, limited to a small geographical area. Its fall rate is equal to or greater than 100 mm (4.94 inches) per hour.
They occur when warm monsoon winds interact with cold winds, leading to formation of huge clouds, which is also due to the topography or orographic factors. Such clouds can stretch to even 13-14 kilometers in height. If they are trapped over a region or there is no air movement for them to disperse, they discharge over a specific area.
Due to the amount of rain involved, a cloudburst can be quite dangerous, especially if it lasts for several hours. Topographical conditions like steep hills favour the formation of the clouds. Water flowing down steep slopes brings debris, boulders and uprooted trees with great velocity damaging any structure that comes in their way.