As readers of this column will know, I host a weekly podcast called the Mint Climate Change Tracker which looks at the challenges posed by a rapidly heating planet. The second season began on 15 May with a new focus. Each episode now features an expert who helps demystify issues related to national and global conversations on climate change.
Last week, I interviewed Shloka Nath of the India Climate Collaborative on the importance of teamwork when it comes to tackling the climate crisis. This week—each new episode is released every Friday afternoon—my guest is climate scientist Roxy Mathew Koll, who helps me understand just how cyclone Amphan’s overnight intensification into a supercyclone could be attributed to climate change.
Interestingly, Koll says on the podcast that excessively warm waters in the western Indian Ocean have had an important role to play in the fearsome locust swarms in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
At the turn of the year, the Indian Ocean witnessed very warm temperatures due to the Indian Ocean Dipole, a phenomenon where warm waters are concentrated in the western part of the ocean and cool waters in its south-eastern part. Global warming made the warm waters abnormally warmer, Koll says. This, in turn, triggered heavy storms and rain in Africa and the Arabian peninsula, providing fertile ground for locusts to breed. They moved through Iraq and Iran, and finally to South Asia, through multiple breeding cycles, feeding on pastures made fertile by the excessive rainfall caused by western disturbances over the past few months.
The moral of the story is this. As greenhouse gas emissions trap excess heat in the oceans, even normal ocean cycles get more pronounced or disrupted, resulting in all kinds of unintended consequences, like an ever-increasing domino effect. We need to understand these links if we are to plan effectively for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
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