South Asia’s southwesterly monsoon is still over three weeks away. However, Sri Lanka and southern India are currently dealing with flooding rains.
Some parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu have seen heavy downpours since the beginning of the weekend as a clutch of thundery showers drifted in across the region from the Bay of Bengal. The area of low pressure is now becoming increasingly organized and threatens to develop into a tropical storm over the next few days.
Hambantota in Sri Lanka had 59mm of rain on Tuesday, with Tiruchchirapalli in Tamil Nadu recording 56mm of rain in 24 hours. The disturbance is now centered to the southwest of India and this is where the heaviest downpours have been recorded.
Kerala’s state capital of Thiruvananthapuram had a massive 102mm of rain on Tuesday, and has seen 133mm of rain in the last 48 hours. Heavy showers are forecast to remain across the area until the beginning of next week. This brings with it the threat of further flooding and possible mudslides.
Rains usually arrive in Kerala on the south coast around June 1, and cover the whole country by mid-July. The Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) first monsoon forecast was in line with the outlook of the World Meteorological Organisation that predicted mostly below-average rains in much of South Asia, including India.
Rainfall is expected to be 95 per cent of the long-term average, according to the IMD. This may well be linked to the possibility that the El Nino weather pattern may spoil rainfalls this year. The last time India faced a drought with rainfall below the normal range was in 2009 and prior to that, in 2004 and 2002 – with El Nino hitting the Indian monsoon season on each occasion.
Away from here, the heat continues to build with scorching temperatures across northern and central India forcing people to remain indoors as the mercury exceeds 40 Celsius.
May and June are usually the hottest months of the year in India with temperatures often in the range of 42 to 47 Celsius in many places. It requires the onset of the summer rains in order to break the punishing heat which is often deadly.