Chasing Bangladesh's Extreme Weather

Screenshot of the Great Bangladesh Weather Expedition Page

Screenshot of the Great Bangladesh Weather Expedition website

Bangladesh is among the topmost nations vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to the frequency of extreme weather events and its high population density. Floods and cyclones are often deadly and cause serious damage throughout the country. Such severe weather and rising sea levels are already a reality and will only continue to intensify.

The Great Bangladesh Weather Expedition aims to record these events. This team of storm chasers includes meteorologist Jonathan D. Finch from the United States; Dr. Ashraf M. Dewan, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan; Scott Olson, a photographer for Getty Images; and Tim Vasquez, creator of Digital Atmosphere forecasting software.

Finch has spent years studying and forecasting Bangladeshi weather and keeps a comprehensive archive on his site. The following map was created with data from Finch and Dewan:

According to the website, the Bangladesh Expedition will be operating as a mobile mesonet – or a network of weather stations – from Dhaka to Fairdpur and Manikganj taking measurements of temperature, dew point, wind speed and direction as well as taking photographs and video. They will also produce a documentary, which will focus on the project as well as the culture of Bangladesh and explore the uniqueness of the country's weather.

Hail storm sweeps through Dhaka city. Image by Mehedi Rahman. Copyright Demotix (24/2/2010)

Hail storm sweeps through Dhaka city. Image by Mehedi Rahman. Copyright Demotix (24/2/2010)

Bangladesh is home to the world's deadliest tornado and also the world's heaviest hailstone which was reported to weigh 2.2lbs (that's the weight of 7 baseballs). This same storm killed 92 people from hail alone and the nearby region of India had the world's deadliest hail storm on record with 246 fatalities. The Bangladesh expedition has equipment to measure the diameter and weight of hail on the spot.

Scott Olson describes Bangladesh as “chaotically beautiful” in one of the team's blog posts:

People were living on the street, with a simple cloth tent, while next door may be a BMW dealership. A fire burned out of control for no particular reason and yet underlying it all, there is some structure to this chaos, not a lot but just enough to sustain it. The people are friendly and helpful and are immensely proud that a foreigner would visit their country. One thing to remember is Bangladesh is a young country and it creates feelings in the soul similar to what those people who came to an early America. Imagine that time you showed your friend a favorite track of a record you wanted them to hear, that eager anticipation while they listened to it. The art, uniqueness and warmth are of the Bengali people are of a degree you can find very few places.

You can follow the project via its Facebook page.

With additional input from Rezwan

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