South Asia at risk from super cyclone extreme flooding

A new study suggests that super cyclones, the most intense form of tropical storm, could cause significant increased flood risk in South Asia.

The international research, led by the University of Bristol, looked at the 2020 Super Cyclone Amphan and projected its consequences in different scenarios of sea level rise due to global warming.

Its findings, published in the Royal Meteorological Society journal Climate Resilience and Sustainability, showed that if the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere continues at the same scale as at present, then in models out to 2100 more than two and a half times (250%) the population in India would experience flooding of greater than 1 metre, compared to the same event in 2020.

Lead author Dann Mitchell, professor of Climate Science at the University of Bristol, said: “South Asia is one of the most climate-sensitive regions in the world, with super cyclones causing tens to hundreds of thousands of deaths in historical cases. Comparatively, very little climate impact research has been done in South Asia, despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlighting it as such a critical region.

“This study, in collaboration with local scientists, provides much-needed climate impact information in one of the most vulnerable regions in the world. It presents a critical piece of evidence in support of ramping down our greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the Paris Agreement climate goals, where other lines of evidence all too often focus on high income countries where impacts are lower, and adaptation is more easily achievable.”

The researchers, which included scientists from Bangladesh, used climate model projections to anticipate the scale of those affected by cyclones in the rest of this century.

Although the increasing numbers of people at risk is anticipated to be more modest in Bangladesh, estimated to rise by 60% to 70%, this factors in declining coastal populations in future.

However, the research also suggests that if the Paris Agreement climate goals of 2 degrees Celsius warming above pre-industrial levels are adhered to, population exposures to flooding will decrease significantly.

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