2 Catastrophic Climate Events In Progress Right Now In India That Is Killing People But Nobody Cares

Climate change happening right in your face: On one side there is Smoke from Fire, and there is extreme water on the other. India is suffering!

While we celebrated Diwali amidst all the “political” propagandas of bursting or not bursting crackers, most of North India woke up to a haze assuming a welcome to the winter although it was poisonous smog disguised as a fog; while what was actually welcomed by many was cases of asthma, wheezing, COPD, chronic respiratory diseases including many heart attacks and a slew of other health diseases and hundreds of other irreversible problems to and from the mother earth. None of which gets covered by news or social media but in Hospitals, ICUs, Ambulances and death certificates.

That’s terrible! And then we have a majority of the population taking it to social media to dialogue alongside Arnab Goswami and other repertoires of the journalism community to juice maximum TRP for their advertisers and propaganda funders.

We stoop to new lows year after year! We never learn a lesson, do we? No thanks, Covid19!

Let's look at some data, let's see if we can create some awareness.

Following is an image from NASA’s satellite detecting the amount of stubble burning that is in progress. Note that the visualization has been added to highlight the fires, the data is purely attributed to NASA’s EOS (Earth Observatory Satellite)

Image from ViiRs Satellite (NASA) detecting fires in India on 6th November 2021

There are two things we cover w.r.t climate change that we are causing it and is right in front of us:

1. Visibility and choking problem in the Indo Gangetic Plains and
2. Floods from heavy rainfalls in Chennai.
Both are not related as immediately however while one is the cause the other is the outcome directly or indirectly.

Notice the black line in the image above, it's the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The entire Indo-Gangetic plain and cities under it including most of north India all the way to cities of Punjab, national capital Delhi and to Bangladesh is choking. Here is a summary of fires for the last few days, but some technical details before that to further decipher the visualizations presented below.

How is Fire measured w.r.t intensity? How do we know whether this is Diwali or an actual fire?

As per this paper, a basic methodology is presented on how satellites detect fires (also called remote sensing), you may read more here. It does not detect a rocket or a cracker burning for an instant but fires that stay on for a certain long-duration at least a for a few hours or minutes and have a minimum “Fire Radiative Power” (FRP — which is measured in MegaWatts).

Satellite remote sensing offers a useful tool for forest fire detection, monitoring, management and damage assessment. During a fire event, active fires can be detected by detecting the heat, light and smoke plumes emitted from the fires. Hot spots detected in low-resolution satellite imagery provide information on the general locations, spatial distributions and temporal evolution of fires. High-resolution imagery is used to zoom in onto the hot spot areas to accurately locate the individual fires and to determine the types of land cover affected by fires. Fires detected are then categorized into three types, Low, Nominal and High, which are further detailed as follows:

  • Low — Low confidence daytime fires that are typically associated with areas of sun glint or water events, and lower relative temperature anomaly less than (15K). These occurrences are predominantly linked to spurious detections although some verifiable fires may be mixed in
  • Nominal — Nominal confidence fires are those that are free of potential sun glint contamination during the day and marked by strong more than 15K temperature anomaly in either day or nighttime data
  • High — High confidence fires are associated with day or nighttime saturated events, including nominal saturation

Now let's look at the stubble burning scenario this year:

November 3rd 2021

Bouts of smoke and over 30,000+ instances of fire detected

November 4th 2021

Bouts of smoke and over 32,000+ instances of fire were detected. Noticeably more smoke.

November 5th 2021

More fire, 44,000 plus instances of fire detected, over 45% of them with very high FRP (a measure of fire intensity)

November 6th 2021

A thick blanket of smoke, IGP (Indo Gangetic Plain) is choking

By the time we are going to wake up on the 8th of November in Delhi or Agra, we will be breathing the year’s worst air quality. Come winter, expect reduced visibility as this air is not going anywhere sooner.

This is not Diwali contributing, this data presented here scientifically proves that is beyond crackers.

Now, what is happening in Chennai at the same time?

Heavy rains in Chennai with a Red Alert being flagged by the administration and asked all citizens to stay at home with enough supplies and disaster teams ready to take action.

Water logging at Dr. Ambedkar College Road, Ganesapuram on Sunday. Photo credit: Jothi Ramalingam B.

Let's check out the satellite images. Notice Arabian Sea on the left, clouds in the centre and Bay of Bengal on the right on the 1st of November.

Notice Arabian Sea on the left, clouds in the centre and Bay of Bengal on the right. PC: NASA

November 5th to 6th however was a different story, see below

South India is covered with rain-bearing clouds
Chennai's Ashtalakshminagar underwater
Balajinagar in Chennai

We also recently shared a report on Air quality in Delhi around this time of the year. We track emissions, air quality, weather, climate, fires, soil, greenhouse gases and a lot more at Ambee. We have noticed garbage burns to traffic jams, untethered smoke from Industries to stubble burning, forest fires and emissions from energy consumption. We are studying CO2 and climate change in the process, when I see the scientific side of it and the pure idiocratic political, religious side of it, it hurts me personally. It is time we wake up to the truth that if we continue to meet political agendas or burn for convenience or religion, there might be no planet left to do any of this anymore. In many ways, we are testing the patience of mother nature and it has to stop.

We are one of the largest contributors to Carbon and the least we could do is to stop burning. There won't be any Farms left, Forests left, Land left, Diwali, no Festival to celebrate, NOTHING, if we don’t.

“Action is the antidote to despair.” — Edward Abbey

I am hopeful as there is a glimmer of hope. Let's stop burning outdoors of any kind.

To know more about what you are breathing right outside your balcony, you may download our FREE app or visit www.globalairpollution.com (also find a link to download our app there). It will help you protect your loved ones, get notifications, alerts and recommendations. Or learn about the times and neighbourhood that is safe to take your child out for a stroll, or learn about a pollution-free route to go for a jog. There is near-realtime data of Pollen, Air and Weather that is hyperlocal and data for over 100+ countries.

I am a part of Terra.do cohort and work as a co-founder, data scientist and CTO at Ambee.

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