El Nino to bring harsh winter to quake-hit areas

Drastic change in rain, snowfall patterns had destructive effect over last 15 years

Iftikhar Firdous October 29, 2015
Drastic change in rain, snowfall patterns had destructive effect over last 15 years. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ/EXPRESS


The battle against climate change has not ended. While the effects of the heatwave and floods continue to loom over the province and Fata, climate experts have said the coming winter will be particularly harsh in areas affected by the earthquake. As a result, more rain and snowfall are expected.

Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, director of the meteorological department in Peshawar, told The Express Tribune the region was currently under the influence of El Nino. “Through this phenomenon, when the surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean rises, more rain and snowfall is expected in winter,” he said. “When the temperature drops, the phenomenon is called La Nina, the effect of which is more rains in summer.”

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According to Mushtaq Ahmad, the average amount of rain and snowfall has increased in K-P and Fata. However, the changes have been gradual and have only become more destructive over the last 15 years.

“The anomalies have, at times, been astounding if we consider changes in the speed and direction of winds in K-P and Fata,” he said.

Two events were recorded 40 years ago when winds exceeded 100 km/hour in the region. Nearly 15 years ago, five such instances were recorded while two surfaced over the last twelve months – the ‘mini cyclone’ in Peshawar earlier this year and the whirlwind in Karak two months ago.

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Colder, wetter

As per PMD Peshawar sub office data available with The Express Tribune, the average temperature recorded in Parachinar, Kurram Agency is below freezing point and stands between -3 and -5 degrees.

However, according to Ahmad, over the last decade it has consistently dropped to -15 degrees. The same goes for Kalam Valley. The temperature is not known to go below -10 degrees but has now plummeted further to -12 degree.

A study conducted by the Pakistan Meteorological Department shows there has been an increase in the average rainfall in the province till 2009. As per the report, there has been negligible change in rainfall in K-P during summers. The change recorded is -0.2mm between the 1950s and the early 2000s.

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However, the amount of rain in K-P during winter has increased. The study reveals the rate of increase is 6.6mm per decade from the 1950s to 2007 and the total change is 70mm. Marked differences were witnessed in the years after 1998.

Significant anomalies in rain patterns have been witnessed in Balakot where 100mm of rain were recorded in just three hours. Meanwhile, in DI Khan, more than 80mm were recorded in one hour. At this stage, it is still being investigated whether floods in Chitral were caused by heavy rainfall or prompted by glacial lake outburst flood.

All of this is even more alarming considering the recent earthquake in which over 200 died and thousands of houses have been destroyed. A majority of the affected areas were comparatively cooler  in summer.

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Pitfalls to progress

However, little is known and even less is being done to address the effects of climate change. It still remains a distant phenomenon.

The climate change unit in K-P only operates on secondary data and there is no real information to disseminate, an official told The Express Tribune.

“It’s just a pilot project which will soon formulate a policy,” he said. “There is still a question mark over what will happen to this policy on a practical level.”

The province has suffered two major earthquakes over the last 10 years and two incidents of massive flooding in the last five years.

“However, the focus has mostly been on disaster management rather than practical methods to ascertain the causes of climate change,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2015.



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