A ‘good’ year, so far

I remember last June, how cloudy and rainy it was. Junes in Bangalore are not meant to be like that. You have cooler days after the heat of April and May, but it doesn’t get too cloudy. A spell or two of rain maybe, but the predominant factor is wind – June is meant to be windy in Bangalore. Last year, 2016, it wasn’t. Neither was July. They were cold and wet. We wore sweaters through some of the worst days of our lives, as we all struggled to recuperate from a severe bout of viral infection, not having anyone else to lean on, as everyone in the house was down. The papers recorded record rains – twice the average. KRS got to a 100 ft by the end of July. It was all hunky dory.

And then came August, supposedly one of the wettest months in Bangalore. It barely rained an inch and we looked at dry day after dry day. The monsoons had completely given up. September, the wettest month came and went. And the Kaveri riots came with it. Lack of rains had reduced the Kaveri to a trickle. By the end of the year, after the NE monsoons also failed, we were left counting every drop of the Kaveri, and figured we just had enough to last us till June 2017, only as drinking water.

***

This is now mid September. The day has been rainy and gloomy throughout. Even otherwise, we had gone past the average of 212mm for the whole month much earlier, recording 344 in 10 days! August also hit many records and the city was reeling under floods and water-logging most days.

As expected, there hasn’t been much of a squeak in terms of riots or protests, although the KRS level remains at 50% and water has not been released much to farmers. One only hopes things remain good rest of the year.

In other news, this has meant that the rooftop garden has not been watered more than once or twice since mid August. The rains have been consistent and regular. And growth has been almost wild. Every day brings more vegetables to the table, or at least to the refrigerator.

I was freaking out during June and July though, where we recorded some of the lowest rains in a while. But things seem to have evened out. I am not sure it augurs well though. In terms of sheer numbers, yes we have reached what needs to be achieved by September. But a very dry June and July where there was a deficit of -40% in Bangalore and more than -65% in other districts followed by very wet August and September is in line with climate change predictions, where rains are expected to be erratic and expected to turn up in higher intensity over smaller intervals. To give you an idea of how bad things are, Bangalore erased all its deficit in a single night’s rain.

At the moment Bangalore stands at 525 mm which is an excess of 43% over the 368mm expected. In terms of graphs, this is what it looks like:

rainfall-Blore-graph

(Data source: ksndmc.org, more specifically their Rainfall pattern report, note that this is a dynamic document. If you see this in 2018, the data will be of 2018.)

Once again, even though we are well ahead of the expectation in terms of sheer numbers, it isn’t a pretty graph. If you are a farmer, you just saw two really dry months, and got pounded the next two! What are you going to grow?! This seems to be the case in the rest of the country too.

And we haven’t even gotten to October yet, which is the second wettest month at 161mm. It could go well past those numbers going by the trend so far. October tends to be the month where depressions and cyclones form on the Bay of Bengal, and these usually bring in more rains. 2013, the last year when we had good monsoons in Bangalore, also saw the average being surpassed. We almost broke the long standing record too, reaching 336 mm in total! If that was not enough, in 2014 Bangalore recorded 345mm on what was otherwise an OK year. It was a drought year for India, but the South did OK.

Getting back to the point, there hasn’t been ‘normal’ rains as such this year, and this is going to be the norm. It also doesn’t augur well that we are going to be reaching the 31 year mark soon, which started from the early to mid-90s. Although some are suggesting that we are in the lower epoch, and would thus be seeing a higher epoch, there are others suggesting the opposite.

Either way, more rains would only mean more rains in terms of numbers, but in actual, fewer days of more intense rainfall keeping with climate change predictions, which we are already noticing. The best we can do is keep up our infrastructures ready to handle these onslaughts. Mumbai-2017, Bangalore-2017 and Chennai-2015 are not going to be anomalies. They might will be more frequent. We better get used to it.

Solutions are about keeping floodplains clear, leaving waterbodies and wetlands alone and restricting development to higher areas. But what are the chances that will happen?
There’s only more pain in store.

And am talking only of urban centres, not rural areas and the plight of farmers. I don’t think I want to imagine what awaits them with erratic rainfall and droughts ahead!

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