Hurricane, cyclone and typhoon are different terms for the same weather phenomenon: torrential rain and maximum sustained wind speeds (near centre) exceeding 119 km/hour (World Meteorological Organization https://public.wmo.int/en). The terminology depends on the region (e.g. in the western North Pacific, they are called typhoons; in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea they are named as cyclones, etc). The Indian sub-continent is highly vulnerable to cyclones and the losses to life are more pronounced due to high population density (National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project, Govt of India). Studies show a decreasing trend in the frequency of cyclones over the North Indian Ocean in recent years, however, the damage and destruction from such systems do not seem to decrease (e.g. De et al., 2005). In April 2019, Cyclone Fani was the first summer cyclone to hit India’s Bay of Bengal coast in 43 years and only the third in the past 150 years. It was also the strongest tropical cyclone to hit India since 2013 and affected 137 blocks (district subdivisions for rural areas consisting of a cluster of villages), 46 municipal governments, 14,800 villages, and 15,000 km of roads. About 5 million people lost their houses, 14 million people were affected and $14 billion is now estimated for rebuilding damaged houses and public infrastructure.
In this post, I have the pleasure to interview Dr.ir. Henny A.J. van Lanen. He is Associate Professor in the Hydrology & Quantitative Water Management Group of Wageningen University and he has been involved in several EU projects. Further, he is involved in many international groups or networks:
- Coordinator of the European FRIEND programme (EURO-FRIEND Water, Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data; cross-cutting theme UNESCO-IHP);
- Past Global Coordinator of the FRIEND Inter-Group Coordination Committee (FIGCC) (cross-cutting theme UNESCO-IHP);
- Coordinator of the European Drought Centre (EDC);
- Member of the Open Panel of CHy Experts (OPACHE) of Commission of Hydrology (CHy) from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO);
- member of the Discussion Group on Droughts of the UN-International Strategy on Disaster Reduction (UN-ISDR);
- member/chair of the Project Review Group of Global Water Partnership (WM-GWP) on Integrated Drought Management in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE-IDMP).
1. Media are talking more frequently of extreme weather and climate events: why are they so important for our society?
Extreme Weather and Climate events (W&C) cause natural hazards, and when vulnerable human and natural systems are exposed to these W&C hazards, they may lead to disasters. For instance, from 2011 to 2013, the USA faced 24 weather-related disasters that led to about 1100 fatalities, which resulted in more than $200 billion in losses. Similar experiences of weather-induced disasters and their associated losses are reported for Europe. Moreover, there seems to be a growing trend. Summer 2019 has barely begun, but temperature records are already being broken. Recent data show that the European-average temperature for June 2019 was higher than for any other June on record. Average temperatures were more than 2°C above normal and it has become the hottest June ever recorded. This led to associated dry hazards, e.g. wildfires, but also to abrupt endings, like the powerful early-July storm in northern Greece that killed six people. The apparently rising trends go hand in hand with increasing populations, assets and ecosystems’ risk.