Flooding in northern India and Pakistan

  • Although the most persistent rain had passed, this 72-hour cumulative precipitation forecast from 0000UTC 05/02/2013 indicates the worst affected areas. The darkest shading represents precipitation >50mm. Source: ECMWF.

    Flooding is not uncommon in Pakistan, this image from September 2012 shows standing water (dark blue) from heavy rain in the summer monsoon. Image courtesy from NASA's Terra satellite.

    Heavy rain is usually more common in the south of India, as suggested from the above satellite image indicating more widespread plant growth. Image courtesy of France's SPOT satellite.

  • Flooding in northern India and Pakistan
    07.02.2013 14:57


    Torrential rain has this week brought devastation to northern parts of India and Pakistan, with reports of at least 45 people being killed. The deluge began on Monday, bringing near continuous rain in some parts for at least 48 hours and only slowly relented through Wednesday and Thursday. Amongst the worst affected areas have been the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province of Pakistan, the Western Himalayan region and the plains of Northwest India.

    Southern parts of India and Pakistan are more familiar with heavy rain during the summer months due to the South Asian Monsoon, but northern parts are susceptible to bouts of heavy rain during the winter season. The cause of the heavy rain this week has been an extra tropical cyclone, also known in India as a Western Disturbance. This is essentially an area of low pressure, but this particular cyclone gained intensity rapidly as it approached Pakistan through the latter part of last weekend and drew strength from an active jet stream in the upper atmosphere.

    According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department, the first day of heavy rains in the K-P province on Monday saw 83mm recorded in just 24 hours at the Saidu Sharif weather station. The following 24 hours on Tuesday saw a further 91mm, leading to the almost doubling of the February average precipitation of 109mm in just 48 hours. The high surface run-off from the rain has led to mudslides, road blockages and disruption to communication and power lines. It has also caused the collapse of roofs on mud houses, particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where many of the deaths have been reported.

    Rain has not been the only hazard associated with this winter storm – heavy snowfall has also wreaked havoc in the more mountainous regions. Reports have suggested that avalanches have claimed lives in the districts of Buner, Shangla and Upper Dir. There was also a fatal incident of a person struck by lightning in the town of Surab, Kalat District in thunderstorms associated with the highly unstable air mass. The cyclone met less moist air as it moved over north-west India on Wednesday, weakening somewhat before clearing north-eastwards on Thursday. Although the storm itself has now dissipated, it effects are likely to be felt for years to come.


    By: Nick Prebble