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Cyclone Amphan, a link with climate change

Aerosols, from human-caused air pollution, can partly reduce the strength of cyclones in various ways.

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Bhubaneswar Cyclone Fani

New Delhi, May 19 : Cyclone Amphan is gathering momentum to become the strongest storm on record in the Bay of Bengal with sustained wind speeds of 270 km per hour, making it stronger than the 1999 super cyclone and the joint strongest on record in the North Indian Ocean.

It has a link with climate change, experts said on Tuesday.

Amphan intensified from a category I cyclone to category V in a short span of 18 hours.

Studies say human activities may have influenced Amphan in several ways.

Climate change is increasing the damage that cyclones cause in many ways, including increasing sea surface temperatures that raise the maximum potential energy that a storm can reach; increasing the rainfall that drops during the storm; rising sea levels, which increases the distance inland that storm surges reach; and causing storms to gain strength more quickly.

Scientists are discovering a complex relationship between air pollution and cyclones and it is possible that reductions in air pollution in the region, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, may have influenced Cyclone Amphan.

Although they agree this requires further investigation.

Aerosols, from human-caused air pollution, can partly reduce the strength of cyclones in various ways.

One factor is that aerosols reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the earth’s surface, cooling it slightly. Reductions in air pollution may have slightly increased sea surface temperatures in the Bay of Bengal, adding to the effect of climate change.

In addition, aerosols can make clouds produce rain more easily, which limits the formation of cyclones. These factors suggest that reductions in air pollution would tend to increase cyclone strength.

But another factor that influences cyclone strength, wind shear, has the opposite relationship with air pollution. Higher air pollution tends to reduce wind shear, which generally allows stronger cyclones to form.

So reduced air pollution could, in this respect, limit cyclone strength.

So while there may be a relationship between the reduction in air pollution, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, and Cyclone Amphan, it is too soon to say exactly what influence cleaner air has had on the storm.

Roxy Mathew Koll, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and lead author of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) oceans and cryosphere, said: “Our research shows that high ocean temperatures are conducive for rapid intensification of cyclones in the North Indian Ocean.

“In the current case, the Bay of Bengal has been particularly warm, which may have had some role in the rapid intensification from a depression to a cyclone and then to a super cyclone in a very short time.

“For example, some of the buoys in the Bay of Bengal registered maximum surface temperatures of 32-34 degrees Celsius consecutively, for the first two weeks of May. These are record temperatures driven by climate change we have never seen such high values until now.”

Koll said these high temperatures could super charge a cyclone since tropical cyclones primarily draw their energy from evaporation at the ocean surface.

V. Vinoj, Assistant Professor with the School of Earth, Ocean and Climate Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bhubaneswar, said global warming is leading to an increase in the heat content of the upper oceans around the globe.

“This is also true for the oceanic regions around the Indian region. This is one of the causes of the increasing number of cyclonic activities in our region during pre-monsoon times. However, what is different now than the past is the world’s largest Covid-19 lockdown in the south Asian region led by India.

“This lockdown has significantly reduced human emissions into the atmosphere. This decrease means that surface warming due to the removal of human-made aerosols has increased and atmospheric warming (due to those absorbing aerosols such as black carbon) has decreased significantly during this time,” he said.

“This surface warming extends over the waters in the Bay of Bengal. Therefore, the global warming effect which tends to increase the strength of cyclones, if any, is now amplified due to this human-induced lockdown effect. This may be the reason why Amphan has strengthened into a super cyclone, a second one only to the 1999 super cyclone,” Vinoj said in a statement.

“Overall, I feel lockdown may have strengthened this cyclone due to the additional warming of the ocean waters over the Bay of Bengal. This will need to be investigated in the future,” he added.

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Column: Prime Minister sets the record straight – Spy’s Eye

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Modi in Leh

It is now clearly conveyed to the nation that India had put China on notice for its recent aggressive conduct on LAC and warned it of serious consequences of any further misadventure it might be planning against this country. Prime Minister Modi in his ”Mann ki Baat” on June 28, which is like an address to the countrymen, talked of India”s strong resolve in dealing with the military face-off with China on the LAC in Ladakh and gave out that ”a befitting reply had been given to those who cast an evil eye on India”s territory”. He added that ”India can handle friendly relations but also knows how to look into the eyes of anyone who challenged its sovereignty”.

Giving an insight into India”s strategy, the Prime Minister informed the people that among other things India was taking measures to become self-reliant in various spheres, including indigenous production of defence hardware to meet ”exigencies of national security and sovereignty”. India has since stepped up border infrastructure development on our side of the LAC as well as mobilisation of troops on the ground — apart from readying our Air Force and Navy for defensive action against any external aggression. The message given to China is loud and clear — stay off from giving any provocation by attempting to encroach on any point of disputed territory along the LAC. Defence of Ladakh is geared up in line with the declared stand of the Modi government that Aksai Chin had been illegally occupied by China and that this matter had to be set right. That India will stretch China on various fronts — economic and geo-political — is emerging as a strategic element of India”s long-term response to the current hostility of this neighbour.

While the situation on the LAC is still evolving, India has from its side confronted China with the demand of return to the status quo ante and engaged that country in border talks at the level of Core Commander on disengagement and deescalation. The government, meanwhile, is keeping up military and foreign policy endeavours to prepare for any aggravation. It is in this background that Prime Minister Modi, in a brief address to the nation on June 30, did not touch on China and confined himself to an announcement of extension of free ration scheme covering nearly 80 crore people for five months — till November end — giving them relief in a difficult time to see through Diwali and Chhat festivals. An added facility of using ration cards on an all- India basis was promised.

The Prime Minister reiterated the need for total caution during the Unlock-2 against corona. He came off as a compassionate leader who appeared to be giving priority to the internal scene relating to people in distress and by not bothering the latter with the issue of India-China tension on the border, also giving a message that his government was fully in control of things on that front. Since the majority of migrants belonged to UP and Bihar, what is the harm if the PM made a mention of the two major festivals of North India in his address to bring some cheer to this distressed lot? Hopefully, the sense of nightmare that crores of migrant labour experienced in the lockdown would be eased substantially — though the crisis of unemployment looming large for them would still confront them. Importantly, the Modi regime remains firm on building the economy indigenously by emphasising the idea of ”be vocal for local” and encouraging entrepreneurship and start-ups. Internal stability in India will be determined by the economic recovery.

Coming back to the issue of China”s aggressiveness on the border, it is clear that three aspects of the situation deserved to be taken note of in framing a long-term strategy of dealing with that country. First is the unmistakable fact that the intensification of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir by Pakistan and the military build-up on LAC started by China in the period following the abrogation of Article 370 by India, showed a new level of meeting of minds between these two allies against India — that was part of their bigger geo-political plan of acquiring a firm hold in the crucial Pak-Afghan-Kashmir tri junction. This territory anchored the superpower rivalry in the Cold War era for control of this region — a lesson China would remember as it positions itself as the other superpower in the present, conscious of the advantage it has of having Pakistan on its side. India has to weaken this alliance by carrying the anti-terror combat into the POK and damaging the CPEC where it would hurt China the most. China can create some more mischief on LAC in support of Pakistan but this is nothing that India”s army would not be able to handle.

Secondly, this is the moment for India to build the opinion of the entire democratic world against the dictatorial Chinese regime that was out to disturb world peace in chasing its blatant plans of dominating the world militarily and economically — as a new superpower. India must make it a point to highlight the role of Sino-Pak axis in fomenting terrorism of the Islamic radicals and using it as an instrument of political advancement through proxy wars and cross-border operations. For securing India”s interests in a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, we should further strengthen bilateral relations with Russia, Israel and Iran in working for a place in the ”round table” convened to discuss that country”s future — at a time when the US is being expedient about accommodating the Taliban in power there. Fortunately, we have in the NSA and the EAM a very competent, experienced and knowledgable set of people who can achieve the international outreach that India presently needs to counter and override the challenge posed by the China-Pakistan combine.

Finally, it is in the realm of economic relations that India has to find ways and means of scuttling the economic power that China had tried to wield against its opponents, including India. In fact, the tough response of President Donald Trump on the US-China trade imbalance and the more recent US-led campaign against China”s alleged culpability in hiding information relating to corona pandemic from the world — India being on the side of the US in these matters — substantially accounted for the precipitate hostility of China towards India. India”s rightful offer to the businesses seeking to shift away from China, to relocate here added to the Chinese desperation which was reflected in the aggression on LAC. Tension on the borders was intended to project India as a land of conflict and distract global investors from this country. As important as the marshalling of defence preparedness against China, therefore, are the moves of India to battle with the latter on the economic turf. India has set the ball rolling by banning some 59 Apps of Chinese origin and linking it with the call for development of indigenous products and services to make India self reliant in all fields, including defence production.

Prime Minister Modi has clearly embarked on a comprehensive strategy of military consolidation, economic recovery and deeper collaboration with friendly powers to deal with the emerging challenges — particularly the threat posed by China in the immediate and long range. India”s relations with China of Xi Jinping can become irreversibly antipathetic unless China strikes a peace chord by retracing its steps in Galwan valley. People must rally behind the effort of Modi regime to safeguard national security and integrity — at a time when the corona pandemic has compounded the problems of the common Indian at home. Prime Minister Modi in his address on June 30 acknowledged the silent contribution of the farmer and the tax payer to the well-being of the nation. It is a matter of satisfaction for the nation that the Prime Minister has shown a rare capability of handling multiple crises with calm and confidence.

(The writer is a former Director Intelligence Bureau)

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50 hours and police still searching for Vikas Dubey

Ram Kumar Dubey, father fo Vikas, who was interrogated by the STF till late on Saturday night, maintained that his son was not present in the village when the incident took place.

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Vikas Dubey.

Lucknow: It has been more than 50 hours since gangster Vikas Dubey went missing after killing eight police personnel in an ambush in Kanpur, but the state police still has no clue about the whereabouts of the criminal.

All the phones of Vikas, his associates and relatives have been put on surveillance but the gangster has not used any communication tool so far.

The Yogi Adityanath government, on Saturday night, increased the reward on Vikas to Rs one lakh. A reward of Rs 25,000 each has been announced for his 18 accomplices.

Sixty police team are frantically searching for the man, who is now ‘most wanted’ in Uttar Pradesh.

On Saturday, the police razed the house of Vikas in Bikru village where he had killed the policemen in the early hours of Friday. Two SUVs and two tractors parked in the premises were also trampled upon by the same earthmover that had been sued to block the police team’s path when the incident took place.

The station house officer of Chaubeypur police station, Vinay Tiwari, was suspended on Saturday after a 12-hour grilling at the Special Task Force. Tiwari was found to have fled from the site when the encounter began. He is also suspected to have tipped-off Vikas about police action.

Ram Kumar Dubey, father fo Vikas, who was interrogated by the STF till late on Saturday night, maintained that his son was not present in the village when the incident took place.

“My son is innocent and I will fight for him right up to the Supreme Court. He is being framed for political reasons,” the father told reporters.

It has also been found that a phone call was allegedly made from the Chaubeypur police station to the local power sub station, asking them to disconnect the power supply in the village. The police team could not find an escape route when Vikas and his men fire at them because the area was plunged into darkness.

Two personnel of the sub-station have been detained for interrogation.

Meanwhile, in a related development, the police seized two cars and a motorcycle from Vikas’ Lucknow residence in Krishna Nagar area. An ambassador car seized from the house is said to belong to the UP Estate department and was earlier allotted to a principal secretary.

Vikas’ family claimed that it had purchased the vehicle in an auction but could not produce the papers to substantiate its claim.

The Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) is preparing to serve a notice to Deep Prakash, brother of Vikas who lives in Krishna Nagar and is presently absconding. LDA officials said that the map of the house was not passed as per records and if the owner failed to produce the relevant documents, the house would be razed.

Meanwhile, sources said that there was a strong possibility that Vikas had fled to Nepal or to some other state and would surrender in court when the furore over the incident subsides.

The state police have stepped up vigil around the courts to pre-empt any move by Vikas to surrender in court.

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Sagging electoral prospects behind Trump’s H-1B action

The real impact of the presidential proclamation, therefore, will be two-fold. First, as long as Trump is President, it will undoubtedly cause many international students, who are looking at the US as a potential destination for higher studies to reconsider their decisions.

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On June 22, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order suspending the entry of a number of non-immigrant work visa holders into the US till the end of the year. The visa categories affected include, most notably, H-1B, which has been used by more than a million Indian information technology professionals since the 1990s and L1 visa used by US companies to bring in workers from their Indian offices.

During his campaign for President four years ago, candidate Trump consistently railed against the H-1B programme. However, after he moved into the White House, Trump left the visa programme untouched in the first 43 months of his presidency, even as he delivered on most of his controversial campaign promises, such as the Muslim ban and dumping of multilateral treaties like NAFTA and Paris Agreement, through executive actions.

There were two compelling reasons Trump didn”t act on the visa programme until now. The US economy had been doing very well until Coronavirus hit the American shores early this year. And, the tech industry, which employs three-fourths of the H-1B visa holders, has been doing even better.

The second reason is the formidable lobbying power of the industry. The four most valuable companies in the world, Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft, and Facebook have historically used the H-1B workforce to augment their profits. They were not going to let it go without a fight.

The influence these organizations wield was evident when Trump spared H-1B in his first executive order to curb nonimmigrant work visa holders issued on April 22. According to reports, H-1B was to be part of that proclamation but the White House was talked out of it by the industry.

So, what has changed between late April and today?

A number of things, but primarily it is Trump”s dimming re-election prospects. A steady stream of polls in the past few weeks has shown that the incumbent is trailing badly in the race against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The President”s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic — his initial refusal to see it as a threat and then his inability to provide the leadership to contain it — has shaken people”s confidence in Trump”s presidency.

Prior to the onset of the Coronavirus, Trump was banking on making the election a referendum on his stewardship of the economy. But the pandemic, which has claimed more than 125,000 American lives, has also eliminated up to 40 million jobs.

Although some of the jobs have come back thanks to the multitrillion dollar stimulus package, the re-opening plans promoted by Trump have not produced substantial results. Now, with parts of the country closing down again, and the deadly virus spreading in southern and western states, there”s no sign of the economy turning the corner before the November election.

Consequently, Trump needs to be seen as doing something to save the economy and American jobs. H-1B, which has been a bogeyman for the protectionists and economic nationalists, is an easy target during this downturn, even though study after study has documented that the visa programme actually helps create jobs. The administration claims that the executive order is going to save more than half a million American jobs without giving details.

It should be noted that the order mainly impacts petitioners who are outside of the US who have not gotten their visas stamped on their passports yet. As a result, it will only have little impact in the short term on those seeking work in the US.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service issues roughly 85,000 new H-1B visas annually of which 20,000 are for those with US master”s degrees. Most petitioners in this category are already in the US and they will not have any problem in starting their jobs in October, typically the time new visa holders enter the work force.

According to immigration attorneys, a significant percentage of the remaining 65,000 visas are claimed by dependents of H-1B and L-1 visa holders, as well as foreign students who have graduated from US schools, but did not get the visa under the master”s degree quota. These groups will also not come under the purview of the executive order, as they are already in the country.

The real impact of the presidential proclamation, therefore, will be two-fold. First, as long as Trump is President, it will undoubtedly cause many international students, who are looking at the US as a potential destination for higher studies to reconsider their decisions. During the Trump era, the US has already been losing potential students to nations such as Canada, Britain and Australia.

Second, despite the massive job losses in the broader economy, there are still vacancies in the tech industry that will have to be filled to move its economy forward. The US tech sector has said for years that the country doesn”t produce enough skilled workers and the industry will suffer without the intake of manpower through H-1B and L1 visa programmes. If it becomes more difficult for these companies to hire foreign workers, they would probably outsource more and more of these jobs to foreign destinations, including India.

It is an irony that, while Trump is trying to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, his nonimmigrant worker visa policy could force more high-paying service jobs offshore. What makes it doubly ironic is that this action which Trump has taken to try to save his job as President will not do so.

Given the current state of affairs, it is likely that on election day November 4, the American people will fire Donald Trump. After that, the decision on what to do with information technology visas in 2021 and going forward will be in someone else”s hands. And, Trump will have to find a new place of employment for himself.

The good news is Biden has already stated that his administration will lift the H-1B ban.

(Frank F. Islam is an entrepreneur, civic and thought leader based in Washington DC. The views expressed are personal)

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