Unusual solar activity triggered U'khand disaster, says scientist

Unusual solar activity triggered U'khand disaster, says scientist

The unusually heavy rainfall in the last June that caused the Uttarakhand disaster was preceded by a steep rise in the release of high energy solar particles that may have acted as a 'trigger', a scientist has claimed.

Data collected by Nasa’s Sun Observatory Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite suggests a sharp increase in the solar proton flux – spewing out of a barrage of energetic heavy particles by the Sun – between May 15 and 26, last year.

This, claims Saumitra Mukherjee, a professor in the Jawaharlal Nehru University here, acted as a trigger for the natural disaster that killed almost 5,700 people as per the official account.

Because of the continuous rain for several days, the local weather conditions were conducive and needed only a trigger-point.

Scientists currently believe the devastating flood in Uttarakhand was caused by a combined impact of cloud burst in Uttarakhand, quick melting of glacier at high altitude due to beating of ice sheet by raindrops and breaching of natural embankment of Chorabari Tal, a glacial lake, about 2 km north-west of Kedarnath.

But the JNU professor suggested a complicated chain of physical processes that led to transfer of heat from the solar particles to the earth’s atmosphere and disrupted the natural balance.

“In the space weather in between the Sun and Earth, the heat transfer to cloud appearance mechanism took 20 days and 6 hours to initiate the cloudburst in Kedarnath,” he said in a paper published in the journal Geophysics and Remote Sensing.

Mukherjee claimed that there are more than 1,000 recorded incidents of “perturbation in the thermosphere” — outer edge of the atmosphere, about 85 km above the Earth – causing natural disasters. The list includes Bhuj earthquakes among others.

“Research means sudden findings and not a planned programme. The observations suggest no linear pattern (cause and effect) but nobody studied the correlation,” he told Deccan Herald.

Mukherjee claimed he was contacted by the department of space, which is interested to study the correlation. The discussions, however, are only at the initial stage.

Other scientists were cautious in their response. “No doubt, the paper is interesting although it is on the speculative side. Large number of data points are needed to verify statistically that the hypothesis is acceptable,” commented R N Iyenger, a former professor of Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

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