With 31 out of the last 35 years reporting hail, Maharashtra has been found to be most prone to hailstorm events in the country, causing significant damage to standing crops. Scientists at India Meteorology Department (IMD), in their latest study on hail occurrences between 1981 and 2015 over select states in the northern and central India regions, have also noted a downward shifting trend in the hailstorm events from north India to central India regions.
“The exact cause for rise in hailstorms over Maharashtra is yet to be ascertained. But statistics indicate that until recent decades, north India would experience this weather condition more frequently,” explained N Chattopadhyay, Deputy Director General (DDG) of Agriculture Meteorology at IMD.
The weather patterns, particularly in the last decade, has been fast evolving and the frequency of extreme weather events is on an all-time high, noted Chattopadhyay. During the ongoing pre-monsoon period, too, hail was reported in Baramati during the last week. But there was no major loss.
However, the last three years have been more devastating for crops.
For example, during 2014 and 2015, there were as many as 11 days reported when hailstorm lashed over parts of Marathwada and Vidarbha. Last year, too, hail destroyed standing wheat crop in north Madhya Maharashtra.
Scientifically, a combination of extreme moisture and anticyclones during the pre-monsoon period often acts conducive for sudden cooling of droplets to take the form of hail. In addition, when there is interaction of westerly and westerly winds in lower levels, chances of formation of hail is higher, the experts explained.
“So far, hail nets or covers to prevent against hail has been developed for fruit crops, while there is no means to save cereals or legumes fro m this phenomenon,” said another senior official from the department. Besides Maharashtra, the study also highlighted the maximum number of hailstorm events, in terms of number of years reported, over Punjab, Himachal Pradesh; each recording over 20 years and some events lasting even up to 10 days. On the flip side, Delhi (5 years) and Uttarakhand (4 years) reported least number of events during the three-and-a-half-year period.
The challenge, however, remains predicting hail and acting over it, noted Chattopadhyay. Newscast these days issues hail alerts too, but there is little time at the farmer’s disposal to protect the crop, he concluded.