Ask the children if they know of any natural disasters that have been taking place while they were on holiday.
(Deal with the areas as the children present them.)
(Reflect with the children on the floods.)
The floods began at the end of July, when 33 cm of monsoon rain (the annual heavy rains in the region) fell in just two days.
The River Indus, which is one of the world’s great rivers, rises in the Himalayan Mountains, flows south-west through Jammu and Kashmir (a territory disputed by India and Pakistan), and then Pakistan before finally reaching the Arabian Sea, some 3,200 km from its beginning. Although it carries some water from mountain glaciers, much of the river water comes from the monsoon rains. The deluge at the end of July caused a huge amount of water to flow through Pakistan, causing terrible floods. The river is currently 18 miles wide at one point!
It is reckoned that up to 20 million people have been displaced and a vast amount of food crops ruined by the water. The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee has appealed for funds. Because the flood water is dirty, the people need water that they can drink, they also need food to eat and some sort of shelter. But, because many roads have been washed away, it is very difficult to get supplies to the people. On top of this, illness is now breaking out, and one case of cholera – a terrible illness that you catch through dirty water – has been announced.
The United Nations says that it will take years to get Pakistan back on its feet – whole towns and villages, roads and other systems of communication have been wrecked, and the food supplies for many people have been lost.
(Reflect with the children on the landslides.)
On 8 August, a huge landslide engulfed the area of Zhouqu in north-west China. 1,239 people are known to have died and some 500 are still missing. People living in Zhouqu said they heard a huge ‘crack’ and then the hillside moved to cover much of their town in a horrible muddy mess.
45,000 people have been evacuated, and the need for fresh drinking water is becoming a problem, along with the need to provide food and shelter for the people who have lost everything in the landslide.
Very heavy rain was to blame for the slip, combined with years of deforestation in the area; trees hold land together through their root systems, as well as deflecting torrential rain to lessen its impact.
(Reflect with the children on the heatwave and subsequent fires around Moscow.)
By the end of July, Moscow, the capital city of Russia, was experiencing the highest temperatures since records began. The high temperatures came with a period of drought. Fires, caused by the high temperatures and dry conditions around Moscow, led to the deaths of at least 40 people, and many more have lost their homes – whole villages was destroyed by the blaze, as was much of the wheat that Russia grows. Smog (a mixture of smoke from the fires and the usual pollution from cars, etc.) increased because there was little movement of air over the very hot city. The resulting pollution meant people had to stay indoors.
Many people died during the heatwave. Some died from swimming in rivers and then drowning because they had drunk too much beer.
Rain has now fallen on Russia and the temperatures have dropped, but the wheat failure will cause a lot of difficulty in Russia and the many countries that buy wheat to make bread or to feed animals such as cattle.
The jet stream’s influence
(Ask the children if they have heard of the jet stream.)
The jet stream is a wavy belt of wind high up in the atmosphere that circulates from west to east above northern Europe and Asia. But this year, it has strayed off course and no one knows why. It has moved further south than usual and is flowing above Pakistan, causing the monsoon to stay in the same place. The rainfall in China was heavier than usual and the temperatures in Russia higher because of the change in the course of the jet stream.
Is this part of the changing climate? No one knows, but certainly the River Indus flooded thousands of years ago. Scientists are tracking the river’s flood pattern carefully because the area around the river is a fertile growing region for the people, and millions live in the flood plain area.
In China, the deforestation will be examined and hopefully brought to a halt as the people realize how much they need their trees.