‘Kerala flooding seen only thrice in 150 years’

By: | Published: August 28, 2018 2:23 AM

Flooding in Kerala was due to an extreme weather event seen only thrice in the last 150 years, Joseph PV, former director of India Meteorological Department (IMD), said.

Heavy rainfall in the last three months in Kerala led to the death of 370 people and 780,000 displaced due to floods and landslides. (File photo: Reuters)

Flooding in Kerala was due to an extreme weather event seen only thrice in the last 150 years, Joseph PV, former director of India Meteorological Department (IMD), said.

However, he cautions that frequency of extreme weather events including heavy rainfall episodes are on the increase due to global warming.

Heavy rainfall in the last three months in Kerala led to the death of 370 people and 780,000 displaced due to floods and landslides. “In the current monsoon season from June 1 to August 24 we had 240 centimetres of rainfall which is 39% more than the long period average. We have records of the daily rainfall of Kerala from 1871 to the current year and we find that the southwest monsoon (June 1 to September 30) rainfall was in excess of 39% only in three years, namely 1878 (51% excess), 1924 (61% excess) and 1961 (52% excess),” said Joseph, now professor emeritus in the atmospheric science department at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT).

According to IMD data, from June 1 to August 27,Kerala received 36.24 % excess rains, while Idukki received 83.92 % excess rains. Idukki, a hilly district and home to several major dams has been completely isolated due to landslides. When the downpour continued unabated in August, the near full-capacity Idukki dam was forced to release water along with other smaller dams leading to flooding in the plains.

Monsoon rains in peninsular India is associated with a strong and deep current of air crossing the equator over the western Indian ocean and flowing through peninsular India.

In July and August this year the air flow with strong winds carrying the moisture required for monsoon rains was found flowing through Kerala, Joseph said adding,”This flow deviation could have been caused by the unusually increased occurrence of tropical cyclones (typhoons) in the West Pacific ocean. In 1924 also when excess monsoon rain caused severe floods in Kerala (Floods of Malayalam year 1,099), records show that there was excess cyclonic storm activity there.”

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