Varsha's Pick

A silent killer in India : DUST STROMS

A dust storm is a meteorological phenomenon common in arid and semi-arid regions. Dust storms arise when a gust front or other strong wind blows loose sand and dirt from a dry surface.

An eye with dust and a man with trust always cry

Dust are fine particles of solid matterIt generally consists of particles in the atmosphere that come from various sources such as soil, dust lifted by wind (an aeolian process), volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in homes, offices, and other human environments contains small amounts of plant pollenhuman and animal hairstextile fiberspaper fibersminerals from outdoor soil, human skin cells, burnt meteoriteparticles, and many other materials which may be found in the local environment.

“Once you have felt the Indian dust you will never be free of it.”

What is it about India? Much of it is crowded, polluted, poverty stricken; it gets so hot you worry your brain will melt; you can never get the right advice, directions or change; you have to watch every thing you put in your mouth, even making sure it’s closed tight in the shower; the train is late, the car breaks down, the driver doesn’t listen; your white clothes come back from the laundry grey; you see the same shawl for half the price, half an hour later; the thin, naked child turning somersaults at the corner breaks your heart; and the sight of an old woman carrying a basket of bricks on her head in the heat of the day fills you with stifled anguish.

2018 Indian dust storms

2018 Indian dust storms
Date 2–3 May 2018
Location Uttar PradeshRajasthan
Deaths 125+
Non-fatal injuries 200+

From 2 to 3 May 2018, high-velocity dust storms swept across parts of North India and more than 125 people died and over 200 injured.

In Uttar Pradesh, 43 died in the city of Agra and at least 30 died elsewhere in the state. In neighboring Rajasthan, at least 35 people died and over 200 were injured after winds downed more than 8,000 electricity poles and uprooted hundreds of trees. Storms are not uncommon in the region; however, because these storms occurred at night and with greater wind speeds than average, the death toll was higher than usual.

Background

Dust storms are a feature of India’s seasonal weather patterns. The storms typically occur in the summer months, when the weather has been dry to allow dust to be picked up by passing winds. The death toll in such storms rarely exceeds 12; a previous storm hit India on 11 April 2018, killing 19 people.

Storm and damage

The dust storm occurred at the start of India’s monsoon season. In the days prior, region meteorologists had forecast thunderstorms and high winds to occur over that week. Contributing to the storm was a period of abnormally high temperatures for the region, which increased the intensity of the weather system.

The dust storm first started late on 2 May 2018, predominantly hitting the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. At least 73 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh, with 43 of those in the city of Agra 21 people have been reported killed in Kheragarh, a town around 50 km south-west of the city. At least 35 people were killed in Rajasthan,with the Alwardistrict being the worst hit; the Bharatpur and Dholpur districts were also affected.Four people died in the state of Uttarakhand, and Delhi was also affected.More than 200 people were injured by the storm.

Officials stated that the storm was more devastating than prior dust storms as the stronger weather system carried more debris which caused more damage to homes and buildings, and because it struck at night, most were asleep and were unable to take precautions, leaving many killed or injured by falling structures.Most damage and fatalities were associated with high winds, rather than dust. In Rajasthan, electricity supplies were interrupted by 200–300 downed pylons, and schools were closed in the Alwar district.

Because conditions were still prime for more severe weather, the Uttar Pradesh government continued to plan to alert its citizens to weather conditions for the following 48 hours.

Why were India’s dust storms so deadly?

Indian officials say the main reason the most recent dust storms were so catastrophic was because of the time when the strongest winds hit – at night, as people were sleeping indoors.

Most of 125 reported deaths were because of the collapse of buildings and other structures.

But meteorologists also point out how the devastating winds blew.

They say it was an intense downward movement of air, known as downburst.

 

Dust storms later became thunderstorms with lashing rains

That vertical – and not horizontal – movement of the wind, they say, had damaging impacts on structures resulting in so many deaths.

The storms followed very high temperatures in the region.

Just across the border in Pakistan, local media reported 50.2C (122.3F) in the town of Nawabshah – a record for April.

Scientists say high temperatures played a significant role in intensifying the storms that originated in the desert area of north-west India and further west.

But they did not remain only dust storms.

High-speed winds and lightning devastated many villages

By the time they had reached states such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and further east, they also became thunderstorms with lashing rains.

Meteorologists say easterly winds from the Bay of Bengal brought in moisture that merged with the destructive winds from the west.

Scientists say high temperatures, moisture and an agitated atmosphere make a perfect combination for storms of this type.

The damage has been the worst seen in 20 years, according to officials with India’s Met department.

They have also issued warnings that more bad weather is to come, with severe thunderstorms expected in several places in northern India over the next few says.

The extraordinary dust and thunderstorms have come just when concerns have been mounting about the rapid rate of desertification in several Indian states.

The environment ministry says a quarter of the country’s land is undergoing desertification – while independent experts put the figure much higher.

Increasing desertification would mean more intense and damaging dust storms.

Climate scientists have predicted that droughts will become more severe in this part of South Asia with climatic changes.

And because of that, dust storms like the most recent ones, could occur more frequently.

 

 

 

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