Explained: Cloudbursts and Can They Be Predicted?

RH Desk, 16 Sept 2022

In recent times, the world has witnessed a steady increase in cloudbursts leading to the loss of lives and property.

In July this year, the Chief Minister of an Indian state termed the cloudbursts a “foreign conspiracy”. So what are cloudbursts and how are they caused, explains our team.

What is a cloudburst?

A cloudburst is an intense spell of rain in a particular area. However, every spell of intense rain can’t be classified as a cloudburst. Experts define a cloudburst as an intense spell of around 100 mm of rain in a small area over a period of one hour. By that definition, a spell of rain of 50 mm over half an hour can also be termed a cloudburst.

To understand the intensity of the rainfall, let’s take the example of the Indian capital city of New Delhi. The average precipitation in New Delhi is 650 mm. It means that if there is a cloudburst in Delhi, one-sixth of the total rainfall of Delhi for a year could be witnessed just in an hour.

Where can a cloudburst happen?

The cloudbursts can occur anywhere in the world but are more common in mountainous regions and the deserts. In India, the cloudbursts often occur in the Himalayan states. While in mounatnuious regions, it could lead to flashfloods and landlsides, it leads to masive flooding in the plains

What causes a cloudburst?

Cloudbursts happen when the clouds laden with precipitation are unable to produce rain. This could be because of the upward movement of the warm current of air that doesn’t let the raindrops to fall down. As a result, the rain drops get bigger in size and when they become too heavy for the clouds to hold, they drop down in the form of an intense spell of rain.

Can we forecast or predict a cloudburst?

While the meteorological department forewarns of a possible spell of rain, it is difficult for them to predict the quantum of downpours in a particular area. Though the Met departments categorize rain as light, moderate, heavy, or very heavy, the exact amount of precipitation can’t be predicted thus making it difficult to predict a cloudburst.

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