February heat

Mid Feb 2017. We were driving to Chennai. Since 2014 it has only been “driving to”. It’s been unfeasible to take the train since then. Aging parents can no longer cope with coach steps, toilets and train schedules that are all stuck in the 60s. I had vetoed the idea of carrying sweaters as it was already Feb and it shouldn’t be colder than in Bangalore in any case. We reached Shoolagiri, and it was 17°C! Chennai was nice and comfy.

Mid Feb 2019. Driving to Coimbatore. We left Bangalore at 20 °C. Memories of 2017 meant that we carried sweaters, just in case. Coimbatore, however, was burning at 35. Palakkad was showing 37! And summer is not even here yet. Nowhere in the middle did the temperature drop below 20.

On cue, world weather reports show that January 2019 was among the hottest years, ever.

January was cold. Temperatures went really low in Bangalore, touching even single digits in the surroundings. But this spell lasted barely a week. Beyond that, it kept getting humid as clouds turned up from somewhere each time, and that kept raising the temperatures. Couple this with daytime temperatures almost always hovering around 30°C and we really didn’t enjoy much of the usual winter days.

As per KSNDMC January was unusually colder when it comes to minimum temperatures. The average temperature was closer to 21.5°C and while the average min hovered at 11.28°C, the average max was 31.8°C. It has been a hot and cold winter. Note also that this has generally been the trend this decade.

bangalore temperatures min and max for Jan 2019
(source: KSNDMC)

What is interesting is the higher day time temperatures. Purely anecdotally, temperatures used to be lower than 30 usually and you’d be fine with a jacket during day time too. There is just one day, early in the year that docked lower than 30, that too barely. If you look at earlier years, much earlier, 2013 and 2014, a lot of days can be seen in the 29s. Even some 27s and 28s would be visible. (Check http://www.KSNDMC.org query interface).

Now, what does this mean? Does this tie up with general global warming patterns? Yes, and no; more like I’d rather not wager that way. In Bangalore at least rising day temperatures can do a lot more with general urbanisation, loss of green cover, increase in number of vehicles, ppm and all that. How much has it to do with global warming and how much to do with local causes, I don’t know. I’d guess it’s a combination of local and global conditions. There have been reports of how winter is ending sooner and summer starting earlier (leading to longer summers and shorter winters). So that’s there.

What does this mean for the Monsoons. I don’t know. Last year we had a particularly mild summer, with the temperature barely touching 35°C. The Monsoons were excellent along the coast and Kodagu, but a complete letdown in Bangalore and SIK.

rainfall_blr_swm_2018

There was already talk of El Nino taking effect in the later stages of the Monsoon and that showed in decreased rainfall activity around September and October which are the wettest months for Bangalore. A few days of heavy rain ensured the months did not face too much deficit, but looks like that’s the way it is going to be in future.

El Nino is already in effect this year, and is expected to end by Feb 2018. The last El Nino ended in 2016, around March-May. So it is possible that the current one which has been short-lived might not affect the Monsoon badly.

But here’s some fun cud to chew on. 2014-15 was a weak El Nino year, 2015-16 was a “Very Strong” El Nino year (source: ggweather). We had droughts, officially from 2014 to 2015. 2016 was a drought-free year. Having said that, coming to South India or Karnataka in particular, 2014 was a good rain year, the reservoirs were full by end of October. 2015 and 2016 were really bad droughts! But Chennai was flooded by end of 2015, and Bangalore also received heavy rains.

2017-18 was (a weak) La Nina. For India, 2017 was a good rains year. But, Karnataka saw the Kaveri rising to only 63% of its capacity and there were widespread rows over sharing the waters with TN. Bangalore, and SIK in general, were flooded with heavy rains all the way till October-November that year!

2018 was an excellent year for rains all over. Except that for Karnataka, it was excess along Kodagu, Hassan and Chikmagaluru, the Kaveri catchment areas, and drought for the regions beyond the Western Ghats. The rivers were full, there were floods, but all the action got over by mid-August with scanty rainfall post that.

In this background, what does a normal monsoon prediction mean? In fact, what does a normal monsoon declaration at the end of the Monsoon even mean? Depending on myriad factors, you could have a great year with lots of rains while the rest of the country is declaring a drought, like Chennai in 2015. You could be reeling under a heavy drought, while other parts of your state are celebrating a heavy monsoon and full rivers, and some even drowning in floods, like NIK and Kodagu during 2018. Forget even that. You could be dealing with floods, and have a shortage at the end of it : Kerala after those 100 year floods in Aug 2018.

When just one month of conventional monsoon season is left, India faces a deficit of six per cent rainfall. The normalcy implied by this figure hinges on the enormous excess seen in the southwestern parts of the peninsula this month when around 40 per cent of the country faces drought. Distribution of monsoon rains has seen a deviation from the normal owing to several regional and global climatological factors.

Source: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/at-the-fag-end-of-a-distressing-monsoon-comes-el-ni-o-61483

What we are seeing is a new normal, and country-wide predictions of Monsoons don’t make sense anymore. We need more granular predictions, at least at region levels (NIK, SIK), and try to get them right over the years. Otherwise we’ll continue to be celebrating normal monsoons, while a third of the country will be under floods, a third in drought, and some parts reeling from both.

So what does all of this mean?
Well, welcome to the anthropocene, all bets are off!

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Butterflies and other bugs – Mallathahalli Lake

This isn’t the season for birding. The winter birds are gone, the monsoons have set in. We are left with the usual suspects – the coots, egrets, lapwings, a few stilts, and some ibises. The Monsoon has also meant a spurt in the Parthenium that takes over the entire path of the Mallathahalli Lake. This usually discourages walkers, and encourages different forms of urban wild to take over. What you usually get is butterflies. Lots of them.
Yesterday, as I made my way for  close to a km through the Parthenium, I ran into at least 5 types of butterflies – Plain tiger, Pioneer, Mottled Emigrant, Common Castor and Common grass yellow. And surprisingly, a tiny spider which turned out to be of the Rhene species.
img_4728 Continue reading “Butterflies and other bugs – Mallathahalli Lake”

End of June

June is not expected to be a great month. Unlike popular perception, it isn’t wet and gloomy usually; among wet months, it ranks below May. It’s windy as the Monsoons sweep through. This brings in a lot of dust and garbage from all over. I like the winds, coming as they usually are after a hot summer, and sometimes a rainy and stormy May. I like the weather in general. It is usually sunny with puffy clouds and lots of winds. Later in the day, you get windswept clouds. Early on in the month, it gets cloudy, and rains to show that the Monsoons are here.

This year has been crazy. You wake up to cloudy weather. Some days even drizzly weather. You watch those clouds hanging by all day. And then in the evening, they let go and it’s the usual chaos. You wake up again the next morning, hoping that all those rains would’ve cleaned things up, but no, it’s the same charade all over again. It feels like October. You’d think it’s nice to have these bountiful rains, except that KRS and other important dams have barely registered anything. Pretty much, all these rains fall on concrete and roads, and not adding up to any value. And you have flooded roads and a potential water shortage. Maybe I should put in a rainwater harvesting thing. But the area we have is pretty small, not sure how useful it will be.

img_2891

The part that gets me is how things are turning out for me this month. All cycling has been advanced to the morning, when am also needed at home. This means waking up crazy early, and pedalling out, hoping to return as early as possible and then deal with things.

By evening, the mood is generally off. Not too many people like a house that is dark at 4 PM. And then it starts drizzling and raining. An entire evening’s worth of cheer is gone. I like rains, mind you, except that I like them when they should be raining. Supposed to be dry and windy, and it’s raining means that when it should be raining heavier, it probably might not.

img_2892Oh well, sometimes I wonder if this is just a phase for me, and the weather is something I am railing against for not helping. A bit of sunny love would be nice though, but what does one do?

June is pretty much over. It’ll be July now. Supposed to be wetter than June, but not as much as August. I only hope for a break, something that I can catch my breath in, before I have to run again, cos God knows when I’ll get to stop again. But I feel hopeful at times when I realise I’ve been through all this with Amma’s health in 2012, then again in 2013, hitting a nadir in 2014 and getting back to some semblance of something in 2015. 2016, I feel hope with, but it might just turn out to be worse than 2014. The signs are all there.

But there isn’t much to do but fight. And fight we will. What else is there to do?

Update:

So it isn’t just perception. Bangalore has received more than 170mm of rainfall so far in June, while the average is around 89mm. Source: The Hindu.

Back in the ghats

It’s odd charting the same path after 2 years. That novelty is no longer there, and you almost always brace yourself for disappointment. Seldom are things better the second time around, at least in these times where you only see a larger and deeper human presence, and the consequent decadence in the form of plastic covers and garbage.

Two years back, we drove to the Jog falls via Tumkur, Tiptur, Arasikere, Kadur, Birur, Tarikere, etc. The rains caught up at Kadur and didn’t let go for the whole journey until the last day when we crossed Bhadravathi and got back into the inner side of the Ghats. The whole place looked like a gigantic bathroom, and was damp and wet all the time. This time there were sporadic bursts but nothing steady or substantial. There was that feeling of cloudiness, but even when it rained we knew it would let up soon. We could even see stars in the sky at night!

This meant that while Jog Falls 2 years back looked like this:

Jog falls

This year was mostly this:

Continue reading “Back in the ghats”

Chasing the monsoons

So after much inspiration from Twitter and a mind-blowing experience in the Western Ghats during peak monsoon season last year, I decided to head to South Kerala and welcome the Monsoons as they crossed over into mainland India. Anand, ever game, also signed up for the treat that lay in store. Tickets were booked well in advance to fly into Thiruvananthapuram on the 30th May and then back to Bangalore on the 2nd June.

Over the next one month news trickled in about the El Nino effect, and after some misfires that the Monsoon might make landfall on the 28th itself, the date turned out to be the 5th of June. We still decided to go ahead and just make a good time of it.
Continue reading “Chasing the monsoons”

The rains that weren’t…

It was a cool, cloudy afternoon, bang in the middle of August. The usual precursor to rains – massive torrential rains. I parked my bike outside. Borewells being dug all over the place had left a thick coating of light grey dust all over it. No amount of manual cleaning would be enough. And being August it would be criminal not to use rain water for this. It rained. After it stopped I dragged the bike inside. But the cement was now a sloshy coating on the bike. Wasn’t quite the rain I had been expecting. And unfortunately that’s what I would have to be satisfied with the rest of the season.

BBMP, through a rare stroke of common sense, decided to ban boring wells in Bangalore unless some restrictive conditions are met, like no other source of water around. But then, BBMP being BBMP decided to enforce that ban from December, which left open a huge window of 5-6 months for people to dig all they wanted. This explained the sudden spurt in borewell digging all over Bangalore in August. Of all the months during which you could forgive people digging borewells, if you indeed can somehow, it would have to be August or September, mainly because the rains can clean up after the deed. The main ones happened in August – the two most painful ones as we had to clean up both indoors and outdoors after they left. It’s been close to two months now and I can still find the dust outside.

Continue reading “The rains that weren’t…”