Roofs of homes caved in. A pedestrian bridge collapsed. A bus full of wedding guests overturned and swept away.
These are some of the resulting tragedies of extreme monsoon rains and flooding in both the Pakistan- and Indian-controlled regions of Kashmir, which as of Friday have killed at least 39 people, with some local media reporting a death toll as high as 70. The storms started on Thursday morning and continued relentlessly into Friday. Across the region, thousands have abandoned their homes to search for shelter.
The Washington Post has a pretty terrifying account of Kashmir’s flooding and how it’s impacting people here.
Multiple news outlets have declared the rain and subsequent flooding the worst to hit the region in 22 years. Shuja’at Bukhari, who edits a Kashmir-based local newspaper called Rising Kashmir, told the Washington Post that he had reported on similarly horrible flooding in 1994, but that this time was “far worse already.”
“This time the rains show no intention to stop, may God be with us,” Bukhari said, according to The Post.
Extreme events like the one in Kashmir and Pakistan are said to become more likely as the earth’s oceans and atmosphere warm due to human-caused climate change. Scientists say climate change makes precipitation events more extreme, and increases the likelihood that extreme precipitation events will occur in some areas of the world. That finding has been confirmed by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, the National Climate Assessment, and multiple peer-reviewed scientific papers.
The way this happens is relatively simple. First, as carbon dioxide is emitted from burning fossil fuels and destroys tropical forests, it traps heat in the atmosphere. As the trapped heat raises the planet’s average temperature, the heat evaporates water from the ocean and soil, putting moisture into the air.
As global temperatures rise, the atmosphere then holds more moisture — about 4 percent more per degree of temperature increase. Therefore there is more water vapor available to fall as rain, snow, or hail when storms occur.