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Amarnath cloudburst: What is Cloudburst and How does It occur?

On Friday, a cloudburst in the lower Amarnath cave area left 16 dead and many injured in the Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir

By Ground report
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Amarnath Cloudburst: 35 missing out of 37 pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh traced

On Friday, a cloudburst in the lower Amarnath cave area left 16 dead and many injured in the Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday night. According to the authorities, the search for between 30 and 40 people is still ongoing.

Heavy boulders and gushing water pummeled the base camp at Baltal, washing away three langars and 25 tents pitched by pilgrims undertaking the dangerous annual yatra to the famed holy shrine.

What is Cloudburst

A downpour is a sudden shower of rain that can be quite unexpected, very abrupt, and quite soggy. In some clouds, up to 5 inches (nearly 13 centimetres) of rain can fall in an hour, often in extremely large droplets. Showers are especially common in the tropics, although they can occur anywhere, and are often accompanied by thunder. They are also very unpredictable by nature, which can be very frustrating for weather agencies.

The term "shower" is the result of the fantastic idea that clouds are full of water. Historically, some people believed that clouds were essentially like balloons, with solid membranes filled with liquid. In a downpour, these balloons would literally burst, pouring down torrents of rain. Although this theory has since been disproved, the term has stuck.

Usually, extremely high clouds are involved in a downpour, most classically cumulonimbus clouds. The heavy rain characteristic of a downpour is caused by a phenomenon known as Langmuir precipitation, in which raindrops coalesce to create larger drops as they fall, falling faster and faster as they grow larger. Sometimes the rain in a downpour falls so fast and is so heavy that it's actually a bit painful.

Due to the amount of rain involved, a downpour can be quite dangerous, especially if it persists for several hours. Flooding is common with downpours, and in areas with streams, washes, and other gullies, these geological features can quickly fill with water, sweeping away any people and animals that might be inside. Flooding can also render streets useless and, in extreme cases, can shut down an entire city as people struggle to cope with the influx of water.

Why in Hilly areas?

According to scientists, clouds filled with water are trapped in mountainous regions. Due to the height of the mountains, the clouds cannot move and suddenly it starts to rain in the same place.

More than 2 cm of rain falls in a few seconds and an altitude of 15 kilometres in the mountains. A downpour in the mountains causes heavy rains that take the form of floods.

Rainwater does not stop on the mountain, so the water goes down along with the mud and stones.


  • Cloudbursts are also responsible for flash flood creations.
  • Cloudburst effects in the area such as floods, landslide, mudflow and land yielding.
  • Floods result in overfull of water in houses, resulting in several deaths.
  • Blocking the passage of rivers because of temporary loss and accumulation of the reservoir, resulting in collapse.
  • These are the result of heavy rains, especially in hilly areas, which cause death and destruction.

Difficut to predict?

According to an IMD explainer on its website, "It is very difficult to predict downpours due to their very small scale in space and time. To monitor or forecast now (by predicting a few hours in advance) the downpour, we need to have radar dense network over downpour-prone areas or one needs to have very high-resolution weather forecast models to resolve the scale of the downpour."

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