Amarnath Flash Flood
- 11 Jul 2022
- 6 min read
Why in the News?
Recently, flash floods caused landslips near the Baltal base camp in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal area.
- At least 13 people, mainly Amarnath pilgrims, have died and dozens went missing after flash floods.
What do we Need to know about Amarnath?
- Amarnath Temple is a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
- The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m, about 100 km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, reached through Pahalgam town.
- The shrine represents an important part of Hinduism.
- The Amarnath yatra resumed after three years this year.
- The annual yatra has twin routes of Pahalgam in south and Sonamarg in central Kashmir to reach the cave shrine:
What do we know about the Amarnath Flash Flood?
- Flash Flood:
- These are sudden surges in water levels generally during or following an intense spell of rain.
- These are highly localised events of short duration with a very high peak and usually have less than six hours between the occurrence of the rainfall and peak flood.
- The flood situation worsens in the presence of choked drainage lines or encroachments obstructing the natural flow of water.
- It may be caused by heavy rain associated with a severe thunderstorm, hurricane, tropical storm, or meltwater from ice or snow flowing over ice sheets or snowfields.
- Flash Floods can also occur due to Dam or Levee Breaks, and/or Mudslides (Debris Flow).
- In areas on or near volcanoes, flash floods have also occurred after eruptions, when glaciers have been melted by the intense heat.
- The intensity of the rainfall, the location and distribution of the rainfall, the land use and topography, vegetation types and growth/density, soil type, and soil water- content all determine just how quickly the Flash Flooding may occur, and influence where it may occur.
What do we know about Cloudburst?
- Cloudbursts are short-duration, intense rainfall events over a small area.
- It is a weather phenomenon with unexpected precipitation exceeding 100mm/h over a geographical region of approximately 20-30 square km.
- In the Indian Subcontinent, it generally occurs when a monsoon cloud drifts northwards, from the Bay of Bengal or the Arabian Sea across the plains then on to the Himalaya that sometimes brings 75 millimetres of rain per hour.
- The relative humidity and cloud cover is at the maximum level with low temperature and slow winds because of which a high amount of clouds may get condensed at a very rapid rate and result in a cloudburst.
- As temperatures increase, the atmosphere can hold more and more moisture and this moisture comes down as a short very intense rainfall for a short duration probably half an hour or one hour resulting in flash floods in the mountainous areas and urban floods in the cities.
- Cloudburst are Different from Rainfall:
- Rain is condensed water falling from a cloud while cloudburst is a sudden heavy rainstorm.
- Rain over 100mm per hour is categorized as a cloudburst.
- The cloudburst is a natural phenomenon, but occurs quite unexpectedly, very abruptly, and rather drenching.
- Consequences of Cloudbursts:
Why do cloudbursts occur in hilly areas like Amarnath?
- In hilly areas, sometimes saturated clouds ready to condense into rain cannot produce rain, due to the upward movement of the very warm current of air.
- Instead of falling downwards, raindrops are carried upwards by the air current. New drops are formed and existing raindrops increase in size.
- After a point, the raindrops become too heavy for the cloud to hold on to, and they drop down together in a quick flash.
- A study published in 2020 examined the meteorological factors behind the cloudburst over the Kedarnath region, where a cloudburst aided the devastating 2013 floods.
- It found that during a cloudburst, the relative humidity and cloud cover was at the maximum level with low temperature and slow winds.