The issue of climate change has emerged very strongly during the last two decades on a global scale, given its projected implications on the environment of vulnerable states. Steadily rising temperature and its impacts on the cryosphere and rainfall are evident in many regions worldwide. There are indications that Pakistan has had its share of the significant climatic variations that are known to have taken place in northwest India in the past. The dominant component of the climate variations was spatial shifts in the rainfall patterns, associated with fluctuations in the general circulation of the region’s atmosphere. Changes in rainfall patterns directly affect water, agriculture, and disaster management sectors.
Keeping the dominant causes of water shortage under consideration, our Chief Editor Saadeqa Khan has reached out to Mr. Zubair Ahmed Siddiqui for our special “Water Day Edition”. Mr. Siddiqui is a Senior Meteorologist and Climatologist who has been working in various sections of the Pakistan Meteorological Department, including the Climate Data Processing Center of PMD, IMG-Training Center of PMD, and Director of Regional Center for Gilgit-Baltistan, for around twenty years. At the moment, Mr. Siddiqui is serving as the Director of the PDM’s Regional Center for Sindh.
Below are excerpts of this conversation.
Saadeqa: Let us know about your life and career and work experience?
Mr. Siddiqui: I completed my M.Sc. (Physics) in 1992 and then PGD in Computer Science from the University of Karachi in 1993. Later I did M.S./M.Phil. in Meteorology from Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology, China. I joined Pakistan Meteorological Department in 1999 as a “Meteorologist” after passing through FPSC exams. Since then, I have been working at various sections of PMD, including the Climate Data Processing Center of PMD, IMG – the Training Center of PMD, Senior Aviation Met Forecaster at Karachi Airport and Director of Regional Center for Gilgit-Baltistan and now at present as Director of Regional Center for Sindh. Some of my research papers have been published in National and International peer-reviewed Scientific Journals. I have been a fellow at Japan Met Agency Tokyo and have also represented Pakistan at various Conferences and Symposiums in several other countries.
Saadeqa: How long have you been serving in PMD’s Regional Center for Sind? Let us know about particular projects you would have loved to work on?
Mr. Siddiqui: PMD is a Federal Government Department and I have been the Director of Regional Center for Sindh for the last One & a Half years. My main responsibilities include the Administration and Control of the Network of 18 Met Observing Stations, 06 Aviation Met Offices, and 04 Agromet Centers in the province of Sindh while issuing Forecasts, Alerts, and early Warnings related to Daily Weather, Seasonal Weather, Monsoon Rain Forecasts, etc. Moreover, extreme weather like Heat Wave and Cold Wave Forecasts, Urban Floods and Flash Floods Forecasts and other Extreme and Unusual Weather Events, etc., are also a part of my services.
Saadeqa: What are the Met Office predictions for the coming Mon Soon season in Karachi and Sind?
Mr. Siddiqui: Monsoon Season onsets/starts in Pakistan from 1 Jul every year. Hence PMD will issue its monsoon forecast in the last week of May for entire Pakistan, including Sindh and Karachi.
Saadeqa: The Arabian Sea is heating up with average surface temperature increasing from 29 C to 31 C in just two years. How could we stop this overheating process to minimize unusual rain patterns in Sind/ Karachi?
Mr. Siddiqui: Sea surface temperature of the Arabian Sea has been increased a little due to global warming, but I disagree with your above numbers (31 C or 29 C, both are not correct). The average SST of the Arabian Sea in January remains near 24 C, while in June or October the SST remains just near 27 C. If it further rises, then cyclone formation is likely to occur along with some other parameters.
There is no method discovered to stop the heating of the Ocean Surface / Sea Surface, except to control global warming or climate change. Moreover, the unusual rain pattern in Sindh / Karachi depends on Monsoon currents during the period from June to September, while it depends upon “Western Disturbances” during the period from October to March. The increasing “Sea Surface Temperature” is causing the increase in tropical cyclones’ frequency in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
Editorial Note: The question was based on a report of Deutsche Welle English service published 8 Sep 2020, entitled, ‘Pakistan: Climate change, environmental problems put the government on a blind,’ reported by Mr. S khan (Islamabad). It has appeared after further investigation that the news provided wrong and baseless demo-graph which couldn’t be possible under the conditions that we have had last August after having massive rains in Karachi and significant parts of Sind). We are thankful to Mr. Zubair Ahmed Siddiqui for the mention and for making things correct for us.
“Cutting of trees and rapid increase in the number of concrete structures and high-rise buildings is also one of the main reasons for extreme weather in Sindh and Karachi.”
Saadeqa: Karachi, like most parts of Pakistan, has faced fewer rains in the winter season that was very unlikely and indicates climate change even on a more significant level than we expected. Do you agree with it?
Mr. Siddiqui: Sindh receives NO rainfall during the months of January and February 2021, while only 10% of the monthly average during December 2020. A weak La-Nina started effecting during September 2020, while reached Moderate strength during December 2020. A neutral Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) effect persists during the period from October 2020 to February 2021. Both conditions usually suppress the pre-winter precipitation in Pakistan. And yes, these are linked with Climate Change effects as well.
Saadeqa: What Met office predicts for the coming summer season? What could be the max temperature during the peak months of June/July?
Mr. Siddiqui: Extreme weather events, including heatwaves, are the most significant effects of climate change impacts on Pakistan, especially Karachi city. Another reason for increasing temperatures in Karachi during summer is the “Urban Heat Island” effect. Cutting of trees and rapid increase in the number of concrete structures and high-rise buildings is also one of the main reasons. At least one heatwave (or more) is expected during May, June, and July 2021, respectively. Maximum Temperature during the afternoon time may reach above 42 C during the heat waves. At this moment, this is only a seasonal outlook, PMD will issue a more precise forecast one week before these events.
Saadeqa: The Indus river delta has been badly affected by the Arabian Sea intrusion that damaged people’s livelihood and gives rise to climate changes. What measures are needed on urgent notice to stop sea intrusion?
Mr. Siddiqui: Indus Delta will have an adverse effect of sea-level rise on the Pakistan coast. Topographically, Indus Delta is a tidal flat zone. During the event of tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea near Sindh Coasts, “Storm Surges” also cause sea intrusion and severe damage to the Indus Delta zone. An increase in Mangroves forests may help in mitigating this problem. Another measure is building small water-storage-dams near the flash-flood affected areas to store the excess water of flash floods during the monsoon period and then utilize this water during the water-shortage months.
Saadeqa Khan is the founder, CEO, & Editor-in-Chief of Scientia Pakistan. She’s a member of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network (Second Cohort) and NASW. Saadeqa is a fellow of NPF Washington, The Falling Walls Foundation, and the Science Journalism Forum. Saadeqa has won several international journalism grants and awards for her reports.