IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th August, 2023 Geography

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The occurrence of cloudbursts, heavy rainfall, their impact, and the challenges in forecasting such events.


  • Recent heavy rains in Himachal Pradesh have led to landslides, resulting in casualties and damage.
  • Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu mentioned cloudbursts as part of the ongoing weather situation.

Defining a Cloudburst

  • A cloudburst is an intense, localized rainfall event, often occurring in hilly regions.
  • The rainfall intensity is specific: 10 cm or more within an hour over an approximately 10 km x 10 km area constitutes a cloudburst.
  • Even 5 cm of rainfall in a half-hour within the same area qualifies as a cloudburst.

Comparing Cloudbursts to Regular Rainfall

  • In comparison, India receives about 116 cm of annual rainfall on average.
  • During a cloudburst, a location may receive around 10% of its yearly rainfall in just one hour, causing extreme and sudden flooding.

Frequency of Cloudbursts

  • Cloudbursts are not uncommon, especially in hilly regions during monsoon months.
  • The unique local topology, wind patterns, and temperature differences contribute to their occurrence.

Impact and Connection to Damage

  • Cloudbursts often lead to landslides and flash floods due to the terrain, causing significant destruction downstream.
  • Despite localized impact, the consequences of cloudbursts can extend beyond the immediate area.

Forecasting Challenges

  • While the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasts rainfall events, predicting exact rainfall quantities is challenging.
  • Forecasts cover relatively large geographical areas, becoming less accurate for smaller regions.
  • Specific cloudbursts cannot be precisely predicted due to limited instruments and technology.

Increase in Extreme Rainfall

  • While there is no clear rise in cloudburst incidents, extreme rainfall and weather events are increasing globally.
  • Climate change contributes to more intense wet spells with heavier rainfall in shorter periods.
  • This pattern suggests a potential increase in cloudbursts as part of the changing climate scenario.


Q) Discuss the phenomenon of cloudbursts and its implications on local ecosystems and communities. (150 words)